November 24, 2017

Editorial

Help for persecuted Christians

“You will be hated because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another” (Mt 10:22-23).

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you as well” (Jn 15:20).

Jesus predicted that his followers would be persecuted, and they continue to be today. The organization Open Doors reports that each month 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians.

The Pew Research Center says that more than 75 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions. And the U.S. State Department says that Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors.

Therefore, it certainly is appropriate that a Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians will be observed on Nov. 26, with a Week of Awareness following it. This day and week are being sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in cooperation with the Knights of Columbus.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, USCCB president, said on Nov. 9, “The solemnity of Christ the King is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedoms and persecution.”

The Open Doors World Watch List says that extreme persecution is taking place in North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea.

In many of those countries, there is little that we Christians in the United States can do. However, there is some promise in Syria and Iraq now that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and Daesh) has suffered many setbacks.

This is an area of the world where Christianity can be traced back to the time of the Apostles. As recently as 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, but it is believed that now there are fewer than 200,000. We can recall video of Christians fleeing the country, doing what Christ said: “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another” (Mt 10:23).

On the USCCB website a report titled “Persecuted and Forgotten?” says, “Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway. If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

Now, at least in theory, Christian families can return to their homes in Iraq. However, as the Knights of Columbus’ supreme knight, Carl Anderson, wrote to the U.S. bishops, “In most cases, they lack the financial resources to do so.”

Anderson said that the Knights have pledged $2 million to move families back to their homes in Karamles, a town on the Ninevah Plain and the traditional Christian homeland in Iraq. He said that the Knights hope to be able to assist other towns as well.

Furthermore, the Knights are asking its councils to contribute $2,000 as an initial goal to help families return. Anderson urged that other Catholic groups join this drive. He wrote, “If just half of America’s 17,651 parishes contributed $2,000, it would produce more than $17 million—roughly the same amount the Knights has pledged so far.”

This is an effort that those who don’t want Iraqi and Syrian refugees coming to this country could support.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore has written this Prayer for Persecuted Christians: “O God of all nations, the One God who is and was and always will be, in your providence you willed that your Church be united to the suffering of your Son. Look with mercy on your servants who are persecuted for their faith in you. Grant them perseverance and courage to be worthy imitators of Christ. Bring your wisdom upon leaders of nations to work for peace among all peoples. May your Spirit open conversion for those who contradict your will, that we may live in harmony. Give us the grace to be united in truth and freedom, and to always seek your will in our lives.”

—John F. Fink

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