|Pilgrimages to Holy Land sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have declined.|
March 21, 2016
ROME — Now that the United States officially has joined most of the rest of the world in declaring that the violence unleashed by ISIS on Christians and other minorities constitutes genocide, attention shifts to what to do about it.
Often, that conversation is pitched at a broad geopolitical level that ordinary people can’t really control: Should the United States put boots on the ground to fight ISIS? Should our policies on accepting refugees change? Should Western nations make a greater investment in reconstruction of areas wrested back from ISIS control?
Yet that’s not to say ordinary people are completely powerless to push back against the genocide, as an event in Rome Friday featuring Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches, illustrated.
The purpose of the event was to present a new book, “Ma Non Vincerà la Notte” (“But the Night Will Not Win”), featuring letters to persecuted Christians from several prominent Italians, including Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan and Maria Voce, head of the worldwide Focolare movement.
The book is published by Edizioni Terra Santa, the publishing arm of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, and was officially released at the Rome headquarters of the Custody. It was put together by author Cristina Uguccioni; the event was moderated by Italian Vatican writer Ignazio Ingrao.
Proceeds from the book will go to the annual Good Friday collection on behalf of the Holy Land, which right away is a reminder of one thing ordinary people certainly can do: Give generously on Good Friday, because God knows the Christian communities of the Middle East need the help.
Beyond that, the event surfaced several other concrete steps that average people can take to express solidarity and concern for persecuted Christians around the world.
The first, highlighted by Sandri, is prayer.
That might seem pro-forma, yet there’s a point beyond simple piety. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, every Catholic Mass featured a prayer for the conversion of Russia. It was in some ways an anti-ecumenical thing to do, since Russia is actually a profoundly Christian nation, but it had the effect of reminding Catholics that there was a suffering Church behind the Iron Curtain.
In other words, that prayer shaped culture in the Church. Public prayer today on behalf of suffering Christians around the world, and not merely in the Middle East, could have the same effect, and that’s something that doesn’t require a massive investment of resources or a policy decision at a high level to accomplish.
“The body of Christ is one,” Sandri said. “Those who are dying there and us here, we all share in this martyrdom,” and prayer is one way of making that concrete.
Second, Sandri suggested that ordinary Christians can make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or to other traditional Christian sites where followers of the faith are facing hardship, which would provide not only a visible expression of solidarity, but also a badly needed economic shot in the arm.