Make persecution 'difficult for others to ignore,' cardinal says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — With religious persecution against Christians on the rise worldwide,
it is important for other Christians to stand in solidarity with them, said
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

in the United States and elsewhere must raise their voices on behalf of
“the millions who are suffering,” he said April 20 during a symposium
held in connection with the release of “In Response to Persecution, Findings of the Under Caesar’s Sword Project on Global Christian Communities,” a report
detailing the nature of persecution against Christians in different nations
across the globe. 

“Make it difficult for others to ignore,” the cardinal said.

so, Cardinal Wuerl noted, may require Christians “to be aware” of the
persecution their fellow believers face on different continents.

He suggested
one response should be to “continue to support the flow of material
assistance” to persecuted Christians through aid agencies like Catholic
Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international aid agency; Caritas
Internationalis, the Vatican umbrella agency for different nations’ Catholic
relief organizations; or their counterparts run by other Christian denominations
and organizations.

we must, of course, continue to pray,” said Cardinal Wuerl, who has just
had a new book published, “To the Martyrs: A Reflection on
the Supreme Christian Witness.”

lamented the rise of intolerance in the Middle East. In Egypt, the cardinal
said, “all found a way, until recently, to live together. Under the rise
of ISIS … things have just continued to get worse.” He added he believes that,
despite last year’s declaration by then-Secretary of State John Kerry that the Islamic State group had been responsible for genocide in the regions it controlled in Iraq and
Syria, most Americans are not aware of it.

is not a Christian crisis of concern only to Christians,” Cardinal Wuerl
said. “This is a human crisis.”

Philpott, a professor of political science and peace studies at the University
of Notre Dame and the principal author of the report, expressed surprise that few persecuted Christians resort to violence. He said there
were limited instances of Christian groups forming militias to protect their
people and property and, given the situations they face, that reaction may be
“understandable and justifiable.”

outlined five contexts in which persecution exists: Islamic persecution, such
as applying Shariah law to Christians; communist persecution such as that found
in China, Vietnam and North Korea; state-supported persecution, such as in Turkey; religious hostility such as that seen in India; and the West’s
reaction to a secularizing influence. Philpott quoted Pope Francis, who called the secularization “polite persecution.”

these, there are nongovernmental actors like Islamic State; Philpott called
them “Little Caesars” who persecute Christians.

Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan, a country where 3 percent of the country’s
120 million people are Christians, said working together with the Muslim majority is the best course of action.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law has resulted in the deaths of many Christians, Archbishop
Shaw said he does not want to have the law repealed, but he wants it modified
so mob justice is eliminated.

He told
the story of a poor Christian couple working in indentured servitude at a brick
kiln in the country. Somehow, a rumor spread that the couple had blasphemed
Allah. Word got to the local imam, and “within 20 minutes there were 4,000
people” ready to exact their own justice against the couple, who had two
children. Soon, both were thrown into the kiln furnace and “within five,
seven minutes, they were both burned to death,” the archbishop said.

Later, officials discovered that the Christian woman was pregnant, and that both
husband and wife were illiterate and could not have committed the blasphemy
of which they were accused. “They did not have a Quran in their
home,” Archbishop Shaw said. “They didn’t even have a Bible in their

archbishop said he gives the “two-F” instruction to his Catholics:
“Don’t fear. Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid,'” he told his audience.
“The second F is do not fight, do not fight. No fear, no fight.” He said
he encourages Catholics to “know your purpose. You were born in
Pakistan” for a reason, Archbishop Shaw added. “Know your religion
and your religious values, and express them in your life.”

symposium also featured a 27-minute documentary, “Under Caesar’s
Sword,” which explored religious restrictions and violence in Turkey and
in India, along with glimpses of situations in Myanmar, Pakistan, Eritrea, Iraq
and Syria.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.


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