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January 2013

A Fraternal Resolution


So, another year has passed away: "swallowed up," exclaimed St. Francis de Sales, "in the abyss which has engulfed all its predecessors!" Since holy eternity is promised only to those who have used their time well, the great master of the spiritual life stressed that we should be troubled by how badly we have used it and resolve to love the sovereign goodness of God better in the coming year; that it may "remove the world from our hearts" and "either bring us death, or make us prefer death to life."

To imprint that sobering counsel on our hearts and minds, we might pause to reflect a little more this year on the bloody persecution of our Catholic brethren abroad, for whom every moment of life is precious, since it could be their last.

Even while conscious of our blessings, we take so much for granted. Those of us not blessed with ready access to the Traditional Mass, for instance, feel hardly done by; faced as we are with another twelve teeth-gritting months of liturgical banality, and worse. Churches and sanctuaries stripped bare; irreverent and heretical clergy improvising at the altar; lackadaisical, happy-clappy congregations... none of it gets any easier to stomach. To suffer parodies of the Faith and the unbloody Sacrifice of Calvary at every turn is certainly excruciating: a dry martyrdom. And yet our Mass-going, for now at least, is not the life or death decision it is elsewhere.

“We as pastors have reached a state of near desperation seeing children, women, children and men bombed out of existence,” stated the President of the Bishops' Conference of Nigeria at a Houses of Parliament briefing in London last October. In the same month, five people were killed and 134 seriously injured in an attack during the Sunday Mass of 28 October at St Rita’s church, in the state of Kaduna.

The following month, Aid to the Church in Need [ACN]reported a 25 November bombing of a Kaduna Protestant church inside the high security Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji. "Nigerian military said two suspect vehicles entered the establishment, one a bus which was driven into the wall of the church causing an explosion but no casualties. When people gathered to see what had happened, a second more serious explosion took place, killing 11 and injuring a further 30 people." It was the third successive Sunday that a church in Kaduna had been attacked, following a series of attacks on government military and security structures, markets, churches and mosques. Clearly, as Cardinal John Onaiyekan remarked, not even the most secure institutions in the country are safe.

The terrorist group Boko Haram denied responsibility for the 25 November attack. However, in March, a spokesman for the jihadists declared “a war on Christians” and said they wanted to “eradicate Christians from parts of the country” (— regardless of how many followers of Mohammed are also vaporised in the process, he might have added). Boko Haram was reported to be responsible for 620 deaths in the first half of 2012, 170 up on the total for the whole of 2011. Claiming responsibility for attacks on more than a dozen villages in north-central Nigeria on the weekend of 30 June - 1 July 2012, which claimed at least 58 lives and perhaps as many as 135, the group thanked God for the massacre — “We praise God in this war for Prophet Mohammed, we thank Allah for the successful attack in... [the] Plateau state on Christians and security men” — while declaring that “Christians in Nigeria should accept Islam, that is true religion, or they will never have peace." To which Bishop Martin Igwe Uzoukwu Minna promptly responded: “If we have to die for Christ, we will die for Christ, but why should we be forced to make the choice?”

Since the totalitarian winds of political correctness and Islamic immigration are blowing a similar day of reckoning into our own backyards, we should pause more often to ponder this carnage — the price of Christian fidelity — and pray for the strength to persevere with similar courage. Consider this further sampling of daily terror that elicits little press and even less international indignation:

  • In 2011 there were 13 separate attacks on Sunday Christian church services in Iraq.
  • On 2 August 2011 a car bomb exploded outside the Syrian-Catholic church of the Holy Family in the Iraqi city centre of Kirkuk, injuring up to 23 people. Describing the events, Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche told ACN that "It went off at half five in the morning, when the children were still asleep in their beds. The explosion from the car bomb sent an electricity generator flying, which made a large hole in the wall of the church. It was the second day of the Ramadan, the month of repentance and forgiveness." The explosion was so severe that people asleep in nearby homes were injured by falling glass and other debris.
  • On Christmas Day 2011 Islamists bombed churches in Nigeria, killing 41 Christians.
  • On New Year's Day 2011, 23 people died as a result of a bomb attack on the Coptic Christians of Alexandria.

The attacks are never ending and boil down to this: a Christian dies every 5 minutes for bearing witness to their faith — 105,000 a year (minimum). Given the EU's renowned contempt for Christianity it would not surprise if they underestimated even this basic figure conceded in June 2011. But as we have alluded, mass murder is only part of it. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Christians suffer constant intimidation, fear, discrimination, unemployment, homelessness, bestial assaults, crippling injuries and all manner of psychological trauma, mostly in Muslim countries. In late July 2012, for example, Muslim villagers in Dahshour, Egypt, began burning Christians out of their homes not because of alleged transgressions of Sharia law, but after a Christian laundry operator accidentally burned a Muslim customer’s shirt!

House burnings are a staple feature of life for the Christians of Pakistan. Constituting about 2% of the 175 million population, they are easy targets; at the mercy of the mullahs and regularly attacked following trumped up charges of one kind or another. Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller, whose organization has been working in Pakistan, says "The only place with aid for many is their local mosque, which places Christians in an extremely vulnerable situation. Some are flatly denied assistance while others are told to vacate the region or convert to Islam. Imagine giving up your faith in order to feed your starving children."

Fr Andrew Nisari, parish priest of Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral related how a Muslim extremist had burnt a copy of the Bible at the cathedral last March. Cathedral guards had stopped the man while he was en route, so he carried out the Bible-burning at the cathedral gates. Fr Nisari told ACN: "Life for us is not easy. The only way anyone can really begin to understand what it is like for us in Pakistan is to actually be here experiencing what we experience."

If our comfortable vantage point does not allow us to fully comprehend the suffering, we can at least resolve not to be fooled by the selective reality fed to us by a prejudicial Western media. As indicated in the shocking article carried herein, the nightmare of sexual assault lived by Christian children in Pakistan cannot be overstated, yet it is ignored by the same pontificating media that has sensationalised clerical sexual abuse for a dozen years. Moreover, this living hell on earth is repeated in many Muslim countries. This report posted on 18 October 2012 by Mary Abdelmassih of the Assyrian National News Agency is typical of the bedlam:

Ali Hussein, a 35-year-old Muslim gang leader, entered the home of a Coptic Christian family in the village of Abdelmassih in Deir Mawas [Egypt] at 7 am on Sunday and demanded that Hiyam Zaki Zaher, the 25 year old mother of two children, come live with him. Ali Hussein was accompanied by his two brothers, both ex-convicts. Two weeks before Ali Hussein told the Marzouk family that he would either take the woman or they would have to pay him 1,000,000 Egyptian pounds.

"The family managed to get Hiyam out of the village one day before Ali Hussein came to their house," said Roshdy Ibrahim, a relative of the Marzouk family. He said that when Hussein went into the home he was met by 24-year-old family member Ephrem, a university graduate, who rejected his demand, upon which Hussein shot him twice, killing him instantly. Roushdy said that Hussein had instructed 120 of his men to wait outside and come in and start shooting if they heard gunfire...

After the shooting of Ephrem the gang broke into the house. They encountered the father, 61 year-old Ibrahim Marzouk, a retired village bank manager, and killed him. They shot everywhere, wounding another three family members on the roof. Although Hussein was also killed under the hail of bullets, it is not clear who shot him.

To terrorize the inhabitants of the village, before the Muslim gang went into the Marzouk home they went to the stables and killed all the animals.

The body of Hussein was removed from the scene to the morgue in Mallawi General Hospital amid tight security as a large number of Salafis and his supporters surrounded the hospital and demanded revenge for the Christian killing of a Muslim man. The Muslims chanted that Hussein is "the beloved of the Prophet."

... Thousands of Copts from all neighboring villages attended [the burial of Ephrem and Ibrahim]. According to a Christian Dogma News reporter from Deir Mawas, Hussein's supporters threatened the Copts, telling them not to bury the two dead men "otherwise they would all be buried with them."

Even after the death of Ali Hussein, who had terrorized the Copts in the area since January 2011, raping women, kidnapping children for ransom and demanding extortion money, nearly 9000 Copts are still living in terror because of the threats of revenge from his nearly 300-man strong gang, his two brothers and Salafist Muslims who are angry at the killing of a Muslim by a Christian. Copts have asked for police protection.

Enraged Copts blame the police for conspiring with Ali Hussein and his gang, by arriving 9 hours after the villagers asked for police help and 4 hours after the Awlad Marzouk crime took place.

Reda Marzouk, a relative of the Christian victims, blamed security for failing to protect them and all Christians, because Hussein started seizing the homes and property of Christians in the villages of Deir Mawas in Minya and took control over other villages such as Awlad Marzouk without resistance from the authorities. "He was so emboldened so as to go and ask for a Christian woman to sexually abuse her, which led to the bloody events of Sunday," wrote activist Nader Shukry, who first broke the story of the gang leader in 2011.

Ali Hussein was reported to the Attorney General last year by rights groups and several times to the police without any success. He used force to make his Coptic victims withdraw their complaints against him.

Despite the endemic wickedness of Western societies, how rosy our cosseted lives seem in comparison! It is important to confront the fearsome nitty-gritty of this persecution because it not only moves us to pray as we should for the oppressed followers of Christ, but also to deplore the official blind-eye turning to their plight. "In just one incident in October 2011," reported an independent American site, "the new Egyptian government’s security forces killed 25 demonstrators and injured 300 more, most of them Coptic Christians. The Egyptian government has also been turning a blind eye toward murders of Christians and destruction of churches, according to the federal government’s updated International Religious Freedom Report. In regards to countries involved in the Arab Spring, it’s interesting that [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton expresses worry about Muslim groups but says nothing about the Christian groups that are seeing churches burned, homes destroyed, and families tortured and killed."

In Syria, too, Christians have been targeted by both government forces and rebels (the latter reportedly led by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and funded by President Obama), with prominent members of the Syrian Christian community being killed with barely a Western political whimper.

It seems that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, that professedly "reviews the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and [makes] policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress," sees only violations against Muslims, not Christians. A 28 March 2012 article by Godfather Politics railed against the rank hypocrisy and injustice:

If you have been following any national and international news in the past few years you will notice a disturbing trend where the US takes a silent back seat to any Christian persecution yet boldly steps forth and speaks loudly when it comes to the persecution of Muslims.

Case in point is Joel Shrum, the American teacher who was recently assassinated in Yemen by a radical Islamist group who claimed he was proselytizing. The US government has said nothing about the killing of Shrum, but is quick to apologize to the world for the killing of Muslim civilians by US servicemen.

The Obama administration was quick to apologize to the Muslim world for the accidental burning [by US military] of Korans that had been defaced by radical Muslims, but said nothing to the Christian world for the Bibles that were burned at the same time.

Christians are being dragged out of their homes, beaten and murdered in countries like Syria, Egypt, Sudan, and Indonesia to name only a few. China continues to arrest Christian worshippers and pastors and throw them into prison.

If you ever have the chance to read any of the reports of Christian persecution published monthly by Voice of the Martyrs you may be surprised to see just how much Christian persecution is going on throughout the world.

In fact, 2011 ACN figures reveal that 75% of all persecution is directed against Christians, the bulk of which surely involves Catholics. Yet if we did not have charities like Aid to the Church in Need to furnish the unspun truth, we might never guess that the Muslims making front page headlines for raging against the Jews and threatening Israel with Armageddon are actually murdering and persecuting us —on an industrial scale!

It hardly matters that Catholics possess no Gaza equivalent to fuel righteous resentment, or that we are bound not only to love our neighbour as ourselves for love of God, but also those who persecute us. From the beginning, Islamic leaders have never needed a reason to incite murder and mayhem. They might detest Jews, but they're not fussy; they spread the hate around. It's just that Christians, as always, bear the brunt. Last February, in an article titled "The global war on Christians in the Muslim world," atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim, described it as "a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm." Alas, since secular Jewish interests largely control the mainstream media, bloodthirsty anti-semitic rants are constant news while the actual flow of Christian blood gets downplayed or misreported, when it isn't blithely ignored. The purge of ancient Christian communities in the Middle East; horrors endured by Catholics in Africa and the Far East; brutal treatment meted out to Arab Christians by Jews and Muslims alike... so much persecution, so little interest.

Yet if politicians and the media have wiped the "rising genocide" off the front pages and out of public consciousness, all the more reason for us to champion our sorely tried brothers and sisters in Christ. Ramming home the truth of the matter, the ensuing items should increase our fraternal solidarity and resolve: to pray, donate and lobby on their behalf, even as their courage inspires us to withstand the rising legalistic persecution in the West. For as Syrian-Catholic Archbishop Mouche truly said of his flock, who risk their very lives to hear Mass: "No matter how big the evil may be, it can’t shake faithful hearts Brave souls remain firm."



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