December 20, 2013

The continuing story that largely goes untold

In the Catholic Church, December 26 is the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr for Christianity who was stoned for blasphemy and whose  story is recounted in Acts, chapter 7 .    Remembering this first martyr "“dissolves a false image of Christmas: the fairy-tale, overly sentimental image that does not exist in the Gospel.”, Pope Francis said yesterday,

“The liturgy brings us back to the authentic meaning of the Incarnation, connecting Bethlehem to Calvary and reminding us that divine salvation involves the fight against sin; it passes through the narrow gate of the Cross,” he continued.

The Pontiff called for prayer for persecuted Christians, who “unfortunately are more numerous today than in the early days of the Church.”

In Syria, Christians are butchered, thrown into furnaces and children are slaughtered and tossed out windows.    Jihadists killed Christians in a bakery, in a police station, even in hospitals.

What is happening in Adra is unthinkable … Children are being slaughtered and thrown out of the windows. But no one is doing anything. The crisis in Syria continues in an environment where there is no international law, including those relating to the paramilitary operations…..

There was slaughter everywhere The eldest was only 20 years old; he was slaughtered. They were all children. I saw them with my own eyes. They killed fourteen people with a machete. I don’t know if these people were Alawites. I don’t know why they were slaughtered. They grabbed them by their heads and slaughtered them like sheep.

On December 28th, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents to commemorate the children under two who were slaughtered in Bethlehem under the orders of King Herod after the visit of the Magi who told him  they were searching for 'newborn king' .  St Joseph, after a warning by an angel, fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt.

 Feast Holy Innocents Childermaspainting

In the Central African Republic, Muslims Massacre At Least 700 Christians, In Just One Moment 

The streets of Bangui are littered with corpses. The Red Cross buried hundreds of bodies in mass graves.
The Red Cross has put the death count at 400, but according to Open Doors, its much higher:

In reality we must speak of at least 700 dead. The Red Cross has not counted the people that have been slaughtered and thrown into the river or buried directly by relatives or by fishermen.

In Iraq, Christmas bombings kill 34, including a car bomb that exploded as worshippers were leaving a Christmas service

"A car parked near the church exploded when the families were hugging each other goodbye before leaving. The blast was powerful," he said.

"Bodies of women, girls and men were lying on the ground covered in blood. Others were screaming and crying while they were trying to save some of their wounded relatives."

Iraqi Catholic leader asks West, "If they kill us all, will you do something then?"

The only leaders in the West that have forcefully spoken out against the persecution of Christians are Pope Francis, Prince Charles and Vladimir Putin

London Telegraph:  Christians left by the world to suffer  by Douglas Alexander

Across the world, there will be Christians this week for whom attending a church service this Christmas is not an act of faithful witness, but an act of life-risking bravery.  That cannot be right, and we need the courage to say so.

In the UK today, perhaps through a misplaced sense of political correctness, or some sense of embarrassment at “doing God” in an age when secularism is more common, too many politicians seem to fear discussing any matters related to faith.  So the growing persecution of Christians around the world remains a story that goes largely untold, as does proper discussion of its complex roots and causes.  In some countries, this persecution is perpetrated in the name of a secular ideology, while in others it has its roots in religious intolerance.

Christian freedoms are worth fighting for  Before 2003, there were over one million Christians in Iraq. Today, there are as few as 200,000

In today’s paper we carry a welcome and, frankly, remarkable commentary by Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary. It stands out not just as a passionate plea for the human rights of Christians living overseas but also because it comes from a leading member of the Labour Party. It would seem that Labour has decided that it does “do God” after all.

Nevertheless, we agree very strongly that it is time to stand up for Christians facing violent intimidation. He points to research showing that Christians are perhaps the most terrorized religious group in the world. In 2011, religious groups were persecuted in 160 countries and Christians were harassed in the largest number of places. In Egypt alone, 207 churches were attacked this year and 43 Orthodox churches completely destroyed. It is not uncommon for churches to be covered in blasphemous graffiti or sprayed with bullets by men driving past. It has become an act of courage just to express one’s faith and, all too often, the Foreign Office has seemed reluctant to act or speak forcefully.

The Guardian:  Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is a crime against humanity

It is a bitter irony that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, launched under the aegis of two devoutly Christian leaders, George Bush and Tony Blair, should have heralded what threatens to be the final ruin of Christianity in the Middle East. It was Iraqi Christians, trapped between the militancy of their Muslim compatriots and the studied disinterest of their western co-religionists, who bore the initial brunt of the savagery. Extortion, kidnapping and murder became their daily fare…..

Since 2003, so it has been estimated by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), almost a million Christians have left Iraq. Those few that remain face an ongoing martyrdom. The warning given in 2010 by an al-Qaida front group, that "the doors of destruction and rivers of blood will be opened upon them", threatens to become all too real.
Posted by Jill Fallon at December 20, 2013 4:08 PM | Permalink