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Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category

Bad Catholic claims Christianity has the world’s only coherent response to suffering. Here is just a small taste – but please read the whole post.

Thus love and suffering cannot be divorced. Let any man who claims he can love without suffering be hung as a liar, for to truly desire the Good of another (to love) is to be willing to work to move the other from the bad to the good (to suffer). Whether that Good be their safety, security, happiness, peace or just their full stomach, love sweats bloodfor it. Love suffers.

Suffering then, is the logical nature of a God who is Love itself. If — as we established earlier — love and suffering are inseparable — then Infinite Love willingly experiences infinite suffering. Enter Christ.

I’ve more to say – responding to the ‘suffering is the ultimate evil’ meme that has popped up here a few times – but not right this minute. Next post, I hope.

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The quote above is from the following video. It is a comment offered by John Allen (the widely respected Catholic journalist, and the presenter in the video) as a reason why the statistics he is about to give are not widely reported in the West. Allen says that the persecution of Christians for their fidelity to the faith falls into the West’s ideological blind spot.

The video is a long and detailed summary of the persecution of Christians: 80% of all people killed for their faith in the world today are Christians, and there are 150,000 Christians killed every year.

Thomas L. McDonald, on whose blog I found this video, says:

Next time you hear some whinging nonsense about the horrible way Muslims are treated in America (the most tolerant, least racist nation in the world), try to keep that number in mind, because those 80% aren’t people made to feel uncomfortable for wearing a burka, or subject to extra scrutiny at the airport.

Below the video, I’ve given you a rough time log of the main sections of Allen’s talk.

There’s quite a long lead in. It’s more than five minutes into the video before he gets going on the topic.

5:45 Allen starts by pointing out that in the US a threat to your religious freedom might be getting sued; in other places in the world, you might get shot. He then gives us the shape of the speech: an overview, four case studies, and five common myths.

7:30 The overview. Allen quotes (and gives support for) three statististics, two of which I’ve quoted above: 80% of all harrassment and persecution incidents are against Christians; there is harrassment and persecution in 133 nations (that is, two thirds of the world’s nations); 150,000 Christians are killed every year.

12:30 Case study 1: Iraq, where a 2,000 year-old population of Christians has dropped in ten years from two million to an estimated 250,000. Of 63 Christian churches, 40 have been bombed at least once. The attack on Our Lady of Salvation was exceptional even in this environment – 36 innocent people shot and killed. It is a moral scandal that this incident and other similar incidents have been well nigh forgotten. Allen says that if we took 10% of the energy we invest on issues like the wording of the Mass and committed it to communities like those in Iraq, we would change the world.

17:20 Case Study 2: Egypt, where Christian desperately fear that the Arab Spring will be the Christian Winter. Christians in Egypt are calling the attack on the Maspero demonstrations and other similar incidents Egypt’s Krystallnacht. Allen says that Christians have been criticised for supporting dictators, but that their choice is not between a police state and democracy, but between a police state and annihilation.

21.15 Case Study 3: Nigeria, where the population of 200 million is more or less evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. The change of the Boko Haram  (peaceful for its first 7 years, but increasingly violent since 2009) has seen a worrying increase in attacks on Christians. The name means “Western education is a sacrilege”, which lets you know where they’re coming from. Allen says there have been 12 threats to the life of one Catholic archbishop in just the last three months, and – as you may remember – a number of churches were bombed on Christmas Day in 2011, including St Theresa’s Catholic Church where at least 37 people died.

23:45 Case Study 4: India, where Hindi extremists have left behind the historic tolerance of their faith to attack Christians and Muslims. Allen told some stories, including that of Orissa, where riots led to many deaths, 100s of injuries, and 1000s of people being left homeless. (Note that the Wikipedia article I linked to here has been disputed as being inaccurate and favourable to Hindi extremists).

26:35 Myth 1: Christians are only vulnerable when they’re in a minority. Allen says that 250 million Christians live in countries where they are minorities, so even if the myth was true, it would still be a significant problem. However, the myth is not true. For example, in 2011, 26 pastoral workers were killed – 25 of them in countries with Christian majorities.

30.00 Myth 2: Persecution is all about Islam. In percentage terms, Islamic persecution is the largest. But Christians are also harrassed, persecuted and killed by Hindi, Buddhist, and other Christian extremists, and by corporates, state security and organised crime.

31:45 Myth 3: Killings come out of the blue. There are signs long before people start dying. For example, the assassination in 2010 in Turkey of Bishop Padovese (and the lack of a adequate investigation) was preceded by a long list of beatings of deaths, and the 2009 publication by a Turkish paper of the Cage Operation Action Plan – a plot allegedly by radical elements in Naval Forces Command to get rid of non-Muslims in Turkey.

35:15 Myth 4: It’s only persecution of Christians if the person is hated for their faith. Allen says that what matters is whether the person is in the firing line because of their faith, not whether the person attacking them hates their faith, or sees people of that faith as representatives of something else they hate (such as Western hegemony), or simply hurts or kills them in the process of a crime (such as a robbery).

36:50 Myth 5: It’s a right wing issue/it’s a left wing issue. Allen says it is an ideological sickness to see this as a political issue.

40:38 What can we do? Allen says we can:

  • pray
  • think globally
  • practice political activism on this issue
  • provide direct humanitarian assistance
  • help resettle refugees
  • enter into North-South partnerships.

43:00 Allen concludes that we need to get our own act together and stop fighting among ourselves about trivia. Our reaction to differences between us and other Catholics, and us and other Christians, should be a patient search for understanding, not cheap point scoring. We form tribalistic enclaves, and the way they react to one another is scandalous, and must stop.

56:30 to end. Allen took and answered 10 questions.

It’s all thought-provoking stuff. Set aside some time and take a look. It’s long, but it’s worth it.

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For All Saints Day, it seems appropriate to chip in on the exchange a few days ago about the story of Lazarus and other incidents in the Gospels. Jerry described them as awful stories. Chris was soothing, suggesting that literal interpretations are not edifying. In the case of Lazarus, Chris assured us that it was a resuscitation, not a resurrection.

It seems to me that one very clear lesson stands out from 4000 years of stories about relationships between our God and those God calls His own. Being God’s friend is tough. Not just because of the way others treat you when you put God first – though almost every prophet, almost every saint, has been scorned and persecuted at some time and in some way. But also because of the extras that God loads on those closest to Him. Physical illness. Lost opportunities. Rejection. Separation from the certainty of his presence. A call to serve where they least want to go.

A good God, we are told (by implication, at least), wouldn’t want us to suffer. I think that’s twaddle. Our good God wants us to spend eternity with God, and God’ll do whatever necessary to make that happen.

I have little patience for the idea that anything uncomfortable in Scripture must have been misinterpreted right up until the new filters applied by the clever clogs of the last fifty years. It is hard to see how John could have intended his Lazarus story to be read allegorically given the details he included: such as the corpse stinking.

And, while I get the tragedy of the whole story, I don’t agree with Jerry as to what the tragedy was. He suggests several ways in which the raising of Lazarus was horrible: that he was raised and others weren’t; that his family had been mourning him; that he now had to die again. To me, the greatest tragedy is that Lazarus was safely on the other side of death and he was dragged back. And Jesus thought it was a tragedy, too. He wept at the thought. And just over a week later, he was himself tortured and killed (which, when you think about it, might explain why the focus of the story didn’t stay with Lazarus). So he didn’t ask his friends to do anything he wasn’t prepared to do himself.

It seems to me Jerry wants a bob each way: On the one hand, if there is no God and no eternal life, then Lazarus wasn’t raised. On the other hand, if there is a God and is an eternal life, a few days here or there are pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. If death is the end, there is no story. If death is not the end, then the story isn’t awful (though it is certainly aweful).

Does God’s approach to God’s friends mean God is not good? I don’t think so. God has a different time scale and a different perspective. A child, sent to bed so that they can be fresh for a party coming up the next day, or deprived of cake because it contains an ingredient that will make them ill, may well accuse the parent of being ‘bad’. But the parent has a broader perspective. Even then; both parent and child are human. How can we timebound, finite, creatures judge the behaviour of the infinite creator? We accept quite freely that each species has its own standards by which it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When we say God is ‘good’, we expect God’s moral values to be at least as ‘good’ as ours; but we’re daft if we think that means we’ll always understand them.

Being God’s friend is a tough job. St Teresa of Avila, one of my favourite saints, is reported to have shaken her fist at heaven and declaimed: “If this is how you treat your friends, I’m not surprised you have so few.” Nonetheless, she thought it was worth it. She also said:

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

St Paul says something similar:

As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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John Zmirak says that theologians have come up with three types of response to aggressive evil:

— sinful Wrath, holy Patience, or cringing Servility:

  • The deadly sin of Wrath uses the evil one has suffered as a pretext for launching outsized retaliation — gleefully (given man’s fallen will) taking not just an eye for an eye, but a nose as well, and perhaps an ear for good measure. Indeed, our all-too-human faith in our own immaculate hearts and irreproachable motives will tend to magnify in our own minds any offense committed against us, writing “Vendetta” in the clouds, and shrink down to puny amoebic scale whatever we might have done to provoke it. If you don’t believe me, pick up the newspaper and turn to a story (any story) about events (any events) anywhere in the Middle East.
  • The virtue of Patience, which accepts trivial slights against one’s dignity like a slap on the cheek as (perhaps) God’s punishment for an unrepented sin, or suffering to be united with Christ’s for the sake of the souls in Purgatory. Patience modeled on Christ’s endurance of the Passion has been the greatest help to the helpless — the billions of people through all the human centuries who have lived without power, weapons, wealth, or the liberty to acquire any of these good things. When one is subject to a chronic, irreparable injustice, or has striven mightily to overturn evil and failed, the spirituality of the Cross makes it possible to recycle this residue of inescapable suffering into supernatural grace, a radiant force with a much longer half-life than fleeting secular supremacy. The blood of the martyrs really can be the seed of the Church.  Certainly, the example of Christians willing to die in the Coliseum rather than worship the emperor made a profound impression on the jaded citizens of decadent Rome.
  • The neurosis of Servility, which combines aspects of cowardice and self-congratulation to mold the kind of person who could stand by watching his children be abducted, his wife be raped, or his country conquered and colonized, without putting up any resistance. This is the disease that Nietzsche diagnosed in modern liberal Christians, which now expresses itself in a form much darker than even he could have imagined: the voluntary self-gelding of European peoples, and their lazy willingness to import, wholesale, an alien civilization to mow their lawns and mop their toilets — in return for the right of inheritance. This close-out sale of Western man’s birthright for a maggoty mess of pottage is the melancholy history of contemporary Europe.

Fighting words!

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(From an email I received – but I’m in.)

Greetings!

Imagine what might happen if every Catholic in the world would pray a Rosary on the same day! We have an example in October of 1573, when  Europe was saved from the invasion of the mighty Turkish fleet, by the praying of the Rosary by all Christians – the origin of the Feast of the Rosary.

In the 1920s, the Church in Portugal experienced a miraculous resurrection in the face of the fiercely anti-Catholic republican government, because the ordinary people who had seen the miracle of the sun in October 1917, willingly complied with Our Lady’s request to pray the Rosary every day …

In Austria in 1955, the Soviets voluntarily withdrew the Red Army of occupation, after 10% of the population joined in a Rosary crusade with public processions …

So, on Good Friday, let us all pray a Rosary for suffering and persecuted Christians wherever they might be, for peace in the world and the return of moral values into our communities. If possible, please pray your Rosary between Noon and 3:00pm.

Let’s unite in praying one of the most powerful prayers in existence,for these intentions, on one of the holiest days in our Church year.

Ave Maria !

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Dr Dalrymple with his wife and daughter

Timothy Dalrymple writes on Patheos about the value of suffering – or at least of some suffering in the lives of some people. He starts by talking about his own experience of pain since breaking his neck 15 years ago. He then says:

[Christopher Hitchins] has complained that many Christians, knowing his plight, have communicated to him that “Surely now would be the perfect time for you to abandon the principles of a lifetime.”

The complaint is understandable. Christians have a standard stock of counterfeit sympathies they send into circulation around the suffering and bereaved. It can seem coldly opportunistic when Christians respond to the suffering of a non-believer with: “Perhaps it will turn him to God.”

But Hitchens shows that he has not understood Christianity well. Christians, in this case, are standing squarely in the richness of their tradition. That tradition does not teach that sufferers are so wearied and weakened that they will abandon their moral and intellectual scruples. Rather, it teaches that suffering makes certain things plain to us. Suffering has the power to penetrate our illusions, shatter our masks, and unveil the fundamental realities of who we are and who God is. Like pain in the body, the lamp of suffering illuminates the architecture of the spirit.

I can imagine the concerned cries of the professoriate that I am “valorizing” suffering. So let it be said: sometimes suffering is simply devastating and destructive. Countless many have suffered far worse than I, and there may be suffering so severe that it effectively extinguishes the human spirit and any power it might have possessed to find something redemptive within the experience. And suffering sought for its own sake, or wielded against oneself as a tool of self-hatred, is foolish and sinful. There is nothing redemptive in suffering itself, and each person over the course of a lifetime will have abundant opportunity to endure and learn from suffering without having to court its company. And I am bracketing the question of why there is suffering in the first place; I am not asking why there is evil, or why there is suffering (which are not the same), but what good can be drawn from suffering by those who are willing.

I know for certain that some suffering can be valuable instrumentally—in its consequences within and around us. And I know in faith that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which always seeks us and seeks through our joys and sorrows to draw us unto him. Certain truths, certain essential truths, are only learned by a willing student in the school of suffering.

Dalrymple goes on to talk about what those essential truths are.

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Check out the great post on Joan of Arc on Catholicism Pure and Simple. I particularly liked the point about Joan’s obedience, but it was also good to know a bit more about the context: I had not made the connection with the scandals in the Church at the time she lived.

“Will you refer yourself to the decision of the Church?” asked the prosecutor.

“I refer myself to God Who sent me, to Our Lady, and to all the Saints in Paradise. And in my opinion it is all one, God and the Church; and one should make no difficulty about it. Why do you make a difficulty?” answered Joan.

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The following letter sums up the reason why I get cross with people who claim they feel persecuted because they are Christians. It has been written by a man who is imprisoned in an Afghani jail. His crime? Converting from Islam to Christianity; a crime punishable by death in Afghanistan, according to the law passed by the government that we New Zealanders support through the military presence we pay for through our taxes.

Transcription of Said Musa’s handwritten letter

Some spelling, punctuation and grammar has been corrected to aid understanding, and some names removed for legal and security reasons.

To the international church of world and to the President Brother Barak Obama President of the United States and to the head of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] in Afghanistan!

My name is Said Musa 45 years old. I have been working since 15 years as a Physiotherapist in I-C-R-C [International Committee of the Red Cross] orthopaedic centre in Kabul, Afghanistan. About four and a half months before by security force of Afghanistan I [was] captured, due to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world. One person ____ he is spy of ____ [a] leader in Afghanistan. He told about me [to] the Government’s officials, ‘He’s believer, He’s head of church in ____’. He showed my house to the security force. Since that time I am in jail. The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head, mocked me ‘He’s Jesus Christ’, spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. Every person spat on me and beat me. Also the prosecutor wrote something wrong against me. He told from himself something wrong against me on my file.

He is stimulating every day the prisoners against me, ‘He is also in jail due to spy for Iran country’, to reveal the church in Kabul. I’m in a very and very bad condition in the jail.

I agree with long imprisonment about my faith even for long life. Because I’m the sinnest person in the world. Because sometimes they treated for died I refuse my faith due to died. Sometimes I tolerate the persecution but immediately I acknowledge my sin before Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Don’t refuse me before your holy angels and before your Father.’ Because I am very very weak and sinful man.

Nobody could accept my defender before the court. If I say I am a Christian man he immediately spat on me and abuse me and mock me! I am alone between 400 handlers of terrible values in the jail like a sheep. Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me. Please send a person who should supervise my document and my file, what I said in it. My prosecutor has told something wrong to the judge because he asked [for] money but I refused his request. Please, please you should transfer me from this jail to a jail that supervises the believers. I also agree with died on cross of my pride. I also agree with the sacrifice [of] my life in public, I will tell the faith in Lord Jesus Christ son of God and other believers will take courage and be strong in their faith. Hundred percent I am stable to my word. I have family of seven – one wife, three daughters and three sons. My big son [is] about eight years old. One of my daughters can’t speak, she has some mental problems.

This is a request from me to all over the world, people please help me. I could not have any person to help. For [the] sake [of] Lord Jesus Christ please pray and immediately help me and rescue me from this jail. Otherwise, they will kill me, because I know they’re very very very cruel and hard hearted!

Your destitute brother in the world.

Please my English writing is not enough good. If I did some mistake please forgive me! From Kabul Provincial jail.

In a trial last week, Said Musa was told he had days to reconvert to Islam or he would be executed.

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