'We die, we die, okay. But the cross lives'
'If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.... because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you... No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.' (John 15:18-20)
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - The fourth Gospel contains a stirring "promise" of the Bible. It is rarely recounted by some contemporary preachers who often refer to the "promises" of the Bible in a manner that seems to imply we can all be "healthy, wealthy and wise" if we simply "claim" them. However, this promise is found in all of the Gospel accounts and comes right from the mouth of the Lord Himself:
|Early Christian Martyrs|
"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:18-20)
Most of our readers know that I write often about the growing persecution faced by our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Just yesterday we published a stunning account from a survivor of the evil attack on Catholics during Holy Mass at Our Lady of Salvation (Deliverance) in Iraq. Here is an excerpt:
"It was a Sunday and evening mass had just begun. Shortly after the Gospel reading, about 17.15, we heard the sound of gunfire outside the church. Father Tha'er, who was celebrating the liturgy, tried to calm everyone down, telling us to pray together. The noise became louder, then we heard a loud explosion and the terrorists entered the Church - five or six in all - and started shooting everywhere.."
"I saw the injured girl. I decided to go and get her to try and bring her to safety. I took her on my shoulders, but one of the terrorists saw me and threw a grenade at us: the girl died and I was on the ground wounded. I pretended to be dead.
"While I was on the ground I saw Father Tha'er trying to defend the altar servers: he embraced them and covered them with his cassock, to protect them, as if he wanted to hide them. One of the men attacked him, trying to beat him to his knees, but he resisted and remained standing, in the end the terrorist killed him. I could hear the cries of the people in the church, terribly afraid, when at one point I heard a voice, I do not know who he was shouting to the terrorists: 'We die, we die, okay. But the cross lives. Whoever it was, was immediately killed."
In recent articles I have covered the plight of Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother in Pakistan whose "crime" is her love for Jesus Christ in a hostile Islamic State. She is scheduled for execution because she stood up for her faith in the midst of a crowd of angry persecutors. I have written about the horrid persecution against Catholics and other Christians in Mumbai India at the hands of Extremist Hindus and the continuous assault against Catholics and other Christians in Vietnam and China.
These are not isolated incidents. Sadly, they represent an ominous trend.
Those who live in the West have not had to face the kind of persecution that ends in the shedding of our blood - at least not yet. Instead, we are being squeezed out of the public square. We are facing the brunt of selective discrimination, verbal denigration and being increasingly marginalized; all of which is a sign of the intolerance of what Pope Benedict rightly labeled the "Dictatorship of Relativism." However, this too is a part of the same ominous trend.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is representing the Holy See this week at an international gathering occurring under the auspices of the "Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe" in Astana, Kazakhstan. The organization has 56 member countries which include the United States and Canada. It claims to be the world's largest intergovernmental organization dedicated to security and central to its claim is its expressed support for human rights.
This meeting had an agenda to cover terrorism, human trafficking, unrest in Kyrgyzstan and the ongoing tensions in Afghanistan. The Cardinal gave a strong address in which he addressed those concerns. However, what was most striking in his address was his explanation of the Holy See's concern that all Nations respect "that human dignity which unites the entire human family."
He insisted that "this unity is rooted in four fundamental principles: the centrality of the human person, of solidarity, of subsidiarity and of the common good. These principles harmonize well with the overall concept of security, which is the foundation of our organization, and are a constant reminder which the political community must bear in mind".
The Cardinal reminded the leaders "the CSCE and the OSCE have always had the promotion and protection of human rights in their respective agendas" and that "These fundamental freedoms include the right to religious freedom". He affirmed "Developments of recent years and the progress made in drafting the various texts adopted by the OSCE show, with increasingly clarity, that religious freedom can exist in different social systems".
He continued, "closely related to the denial of religious freedom is religiously-motivated intolerance and discrimination, especially against Christians. It is well documented that Christians are the most discriminated and persecuted religious group. Over 200 million of them, belonging to different denominations, live in difficult conditions because of legal and cultural structures".
It was that line, "It is well documented that Christians are the most discriminated and persecuted religious group" which caught most of the headlines around the world. Rightly so, because the Cardinal is absolutely correct. We are living in a new missionary age. The promise of the Lord is being fulfilled "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you."
I am grateful for the efforts of Church leaders like Cardinal Bertone. I am encouraged by the witness of heroes like Father Tha'er in Iraq who covered the altar servers with his cassock in an effort to protect them. However, in the midst of this ominous trend I am inspired by the anonymous martyr in that same Church who spoke the truth while staring down the barrel of a gun, "We die, we die, okay. But the cross lives!" Christians are the most persecuted group in the world.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Astana, Kazakhstan, Dec 1, 2010 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians are the world’s most persecuted religious group, the Vatican’s top diplomat told a summit of international leaders meeting in Kazakhstan, Dec. 1.
On the first day of a two-day meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone urged member nations to fight anti-Christian discrimination in the same way that it fights discrimination against other religious groups.
The 56 member countries of the organization include the United States and Canada, as well as European nations, former Soviet bloc countries, and Turkey, among others. The meeting of heads of state is intended to address security questions. Topping the agenda were transnational threats such as terrorism and human trafficking, recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan and the ongoing tensions in Afghanistan.
Cardinal Bertone said that that worldwide more than 200 million Christians “live in difficult conditions” because of legal and cultural restrictions on worship and religious freedom. “It is well documented that Christians are the most discriminated and persecuted religious group,” he stated.