Loading
January 10, 2012
A persecuted church and its heroes
By Father Robert Barron *

By Father Robert Barron *

A recent survey has indicated something that should lift the hearts of Christians everywhere, namely, that the fastest growing religion on the planet is Christianity. This explosive growth is on particularly clear display in Africa and Asia, where churches and seminaries can’t be built fast enough to accommodate the need. It is especially important that we in the West become cognizant of this state of affairs, for with the rise of secularism and the fall-off in church attendance in Europe, Canada, Australia, and America, we can far too easily assume that Christianity is in a state of permanent decline. Au contraire, in point of fact.

But other studies carry the dark truth that the fastest-growing religion in the world is also the most persecuted. Again, this might surprise many in the post-September 11th West, who presume that Islam is the religion most in danger and hence most in need of special protection. But all over the world, and particularly in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Christians are, by far, the most threatened religious group. Indeed, Vatican research shows that 75% of those killed around the world for religious reasons are Christians.

Who can forget the horrendous attack on a Catholic Church in Baghdad last fall? Islamist militants burst into the church while Mass was in progress and proceeded to open fire indiscriminately on men, women and children. As they finished up their grisly work, the killers found themselves trailed by a toddler who asked plaintively, “Why are you doing this?” In time, they turned on the child and killed him. In the wake of that assault, huge numbers of Catholics and other Christians left their country.

Estimates are that in the last ten years somewhere between 600 thousand and one million Christians have been forced to flee Iraq. In Saudi Arabia, no Christian is allowed to worship publicly, and no church of any kind can be built. Many were cheered by the “Arab Spring” which saw the expulsion of dictators from Libya, Yemen, and Egypt and the shaking of the Assad regime in Syria, but Christians in those countries are far from encouraged. The secularist proclivities of the dictators at least allowed for a rough toleration of non-Islamic religions; thus the collapse of the tyrants has made possible the tyranny of the Islamic majority, resulting in an aggressive campaign against Christianity.

Just a few weeks ago, Egyptian Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world — were publicly assaulted in the streets of Cairo by representatives of the Islamic brotherhood. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that an Egyptian Christian mother of two young girls was blithely informed by her Muslim physician that, according to the prescriptions of Sharia law, her daughters would have to be circumcised. Convinced that the government would no longer protect them, mother and children fled the country.

Just days ago, Nigeria’s president declared a state of emergency in sections of his country, due to a series of unprovoked attacks on Christian churches. Boko Haram, a militant Islamist sect, has claimed credit for the assaults, including attacks on Christmas day that left 42 people dead.

One of the most troubling stories of Christian persecution comes out of Pakistan, where fierce anti-blasphemy laws are in effect. A Christian woman named Asia Bibi was imprisoned on trumped-up charges of speaking against the prophet Muhammad. Despite protests from around the world, she was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Currently she languishes in prison, awaiting her execution and praying for her jailers.

Now God knows that Christians have far from a spotless record when it comes to tolerating religious diversity, but the fact remains that as the year 2012 commences, Christians are, by far, the most victimized religious group in the world. From Pakistan to Nigeria, from Egypt to Iraq, ordinary Christians routinely risk their lives simply by declaring their faith and worshiping according to their lights. They are walking in the footsteps of great martyrs of the tradition, from Stephen, Peter and Paul to Charles Lwanga and Edith Stein.

And this leads me to declare persecuted Christians as people of the year.

At this point, I will make a confession. This reflection was prompted by a piece published by the editors of the National Catholic Reporter. In their lead article, they declared Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a theologian from Fordham University, as the “person of the year” in the Catholic Church. What was the reason for this designation? Sr. Johnson, they explained, had been unfairly “persecuted” by the bishops of the United States who dared to question the theological integrity of one of her many books. The bishops did not excommunicate Sr. Johnson, or strip her of her teaching position or declare her not to be a Catholic theologian. They simply were critical of aspects of one of her books. And for this, a tenured professor at Fordham, a woman lionized by the academic establishment, is declared a persecuted victim.

Give me a break.

The nineteen-seventies era narrative of brave progressive theologian fighting against the repressive church is tired and utterly un-illuminating. Far more compelling is the story of the truly brave souls who are risking livelihood, life, and limb in order to declare their faith in Jesus Christ.

Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and is the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. He is the creator of the documentary series, "Catholicism," airing on PBS stations and EWTN. The documentary has been awarded an esteemed Christopher for excellence. Learn more about the series at www.CatholicismSeries.com
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
Dec
20

Liturgical Calendar

December 20, 2014

Advent Weekday

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Gospel
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Judg 13: 2-7, 24-25A
Gospel:: Lk 1: 5-25

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
12/15/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Homily
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: