The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Persecution Update

Every so often I glance around the world and take note of the growing persecution of Christians. It's not a particularly pleasant task, and so I don't do it too often, but I consider it a necessary task. As Christians we must raise our voices in defense of our brothers and sisters who suffer because of their faith; indeed, we should defend anyone who suffers religious persecution, regardless of their beliefs. The persecution of Christians, however, should not surprise us. After all, did not our Lord, Himself, tell us to expect persecution, to consider it a blessing, and to rejoice in it?
"Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you" [Mt 5:11-12].
The persecution of Christians stems primarily from our doing as Jesus instructed us. So long as we obey the Lord's command to "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations..." [Mt 28:19], we will be persecuted by those whose vision for the world coincides with that of the prince of the world. St. Paul didn't mince words when he told the Ephesians that our struggle is against Satan:
"Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens" [Eph 6:11-12].
As Jesus reminded us, "...the ruler of the world is coming" [Jn 14:30]. But then He added, "He has no power over me..." And if Satan has no power over Jesus, then he has no power over the Church; for Christ and His Church are one, even in the midst of persecution. Recall how Jesus confronted Saul, the persecutor of Christians, on the road to Damascus: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" [Acts 9:4] Yes, when the Church suffers persecution, so too does our Lord.

Let's see, then, just a few of the examples of how our Lord is suffering in the world lately...

Muslim mob burning Christian homes in Lahore
Lahore, Pakistan. Imran Shahid, a Muslim barber refused to serve a young Christian, Sawan Masih, 28, and then launched into a verbal attack on Christianity. Accompanied by several others, the barber went to the police and accused the young Christian of blasphemy, saying he had insulted the prophet Muhammad. Blasphemy is a crime in Pakistan that can result in a life sentence. Even though the police arrested Sawan, a mob of local Muslims went on a rampage and attacked the local Christian community. They set homes on fire, threw acid and stones, and injured at least 35 people. Over 150 Christian homes, shops and churches were set ablaze. The authorities did nothing until the destruction was complete, and the leader of the Muslim community, the local imam, said that they would kill Sawan when they got their hands on him. Bishop Rufin Anthony, of the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi said "It is very sad to see that minorities in Pakistan are not safe and are targeted for their religion. It is vital that we work for national harmony." Read more here.

Victim of attack
Karnataka, India. A mob of Hindu nationalists raided the home of the pastor of a community of Pentecostal Christians, World of Victory Ministries, as the community gathered for a prayer vigil. Eight of the Christians, two women and six men, including one of the community's pastors, Fr. Ramesh Poojari, were hospitalized. Fortunately, in this instance the police arrived quickly and arrested 16 of the attackers. Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, stated that this was the sixth attack on the Christians of Karnataka in 2013. He went on to say:
"Hostility and religious intolerance continue to grow and are a cause of serious concern for the vulnerable Christian minority. These believers had gathered for a night vigil, an absolutely legal act. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right, but these extremists have political protection in Karnataka's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, ultra-nationalist Hindu party) and are encouraged to persecute the Christian community, particularly the Pentecostals."
Read more here and here.
Copt protests persecution in Egypt
Egypt. For Egypt's Christian community, which represents about 10% of the country's population, the so-called "Arab Spring" has led to nothing but more persecution. During just the past two months too many Christians have been killed or injured, or had their property and churches destroyed. Many of these attacks have been instigated or encouraged by local Muslim clerics. In Alexandria, for example, a group of Salafists killed five Christians they suspected of building a church. (Salafists are among the most radical of Islamic fundamentalists and believe violent jihad against non-Muslims is a legitimate expression of Islam.) And just this week dozens of Muslims threw firebombs as they stormed a Christian church looking for a woman they believed had converted to Christianity. Several dozen policemen and Christians were injured in the attack. The woman was later located. She had not converted but had disappeared for family and social reasons. Many Christians have also been arrested for allegedly desecrating the Qur'an or converting Muslims. 

Egyptian Copt weeps over Christian killed in confrontation with police, a website reporting on worldwide religious persecution, recently reported the following on the persecution of Christians in Egypt:
A new Islamic militant group, which calls itself Jihad al-Kufr, meaning jihad (holy war) against non-believers or non-Muslims, is threatening Christians in Egypt, Fox News reports. According to an Arabic news site, several Coptic Christians were told to convert to Islam or die. Under Sharia law, leaving Islam is punishable by death, and Sharia is cited as a source of law in Egypt’s new constitution that was approved in December. Under Egypt’s new Islamist government, radicals have gained unprecedented freedoms to implement their interpretation of Sharia on Egypt’s streets, as attacks against Christians and their places of worship have increased while offenders roam free without fear of punishment. “This incident caught the attention of the news agencies, but there are worse things happening to the Christians every day in Egypt,” said Adel Guindy, president of Coptic Solidarity and a member of Egypt’s Coptic community.
The growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups in President Mohammed Morsi's administration makes it unlikely the persecution of Egypt's Christians will do anything but increase. Read more here.

I have no time to continue but, as Jesus predicted, the persecution of Christians will continue unabated. Pray for the Church and for those who suffer today for their faith.

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