A couple of weekdays ago at mass I heard a sermon that concentrated on the great pain and suffering being visited on Christians in many places around the world recently, particularly in the Middle East. The emphasis was not on the evil of the perpetrators, but on the need for courage in the faith, and to become more conscious of the real threats of evil around us. The need to inform ourselves, and to pray. Yes, amen.
The reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, during his first public appearance at a mosque in the center of Mosul, Iraq, on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video - Reuters
I looked into the source for much of the information, mentioned as Open Doors. Visiting the website and it's map is revealing. They are sounding an alarm that Christianity is facing lethal challenge in many countries. This is certainly so, but the numbers are small when compared to the total carnage and misery being inflicted. There is no analysis of the fact, that in most all of these worst countries, the worst wars since World War II have been fought on their soil, and the deepest poverty continues to reside. War and persecution are deadly partners. You can be persecuted for your faith, you can be persecuted for just being in the way.
Taking the terrible example of Iraq [one of the red zone nations], the total new number of all refugees displaced in 2014, alone was reported 2.2 million in the current conflict with ISIS. And no one knows the total casualties in Iraq since our first Gulf War there to the present, but it is certainly in the millions, with more than 6 million displaced. Back at the end of that first war there, in a Mar. 31, 1991 National Catholic Register article, “Chaldeans See Cost of Gulf War,” Christians and experts expressed grave concern as to what would be the fate of Christianity in their country if Saddam Hussein was removed. He was, by our Iraq War, and the 1.2 million Christians who lived in Iraq at the start of that war, were down to 600,000 by estimate of their Catholic Chaldean Bishop Audo in the 12-7-2007 Michigan Catholic report, “Bishop: War may have caused end of Christianity in Iraq.” His prediction becomes daily more true, as estimates of Christians still in Iraq now are some to 300,000 to 200,000.
Muslim scholar, "the man behind the hood" Ali Shalal - tortured at Abu Ghraib, Iraq - 2004
The casualties of protracted war in Iraq are in the millions for all, and in the hundreds of thousands for Christians. War is no respecter of person, war is no respecter of faith. It is the same in all of these nations that are high on the persecution of religions list. They are ravaged by war and poverty. And those countries not on the list, like many in Europe, Russia, the USA and Israel, they are major exporters of weaponry and military expeditions to the theaters of war, persecution, and misery.
hose of us who are Christians, irrespective of our countries, are persecuted brothers and sisters far and wide—persecuted by our own reliance on war and violence. Let us pray for healing of our blindness to the parts we all play in persecuting each other, in persecuting our enemies, in persecuting the all-encompassing body of Christ. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful—enkindle in us the fire of your love and mercy.
Illumination by Kathy Brahney