Blog – 2015 1st Quarter
Weekly Commentary March 22-28, 2015
We have a long report this week – click here to read it. The report contains large number of very moving and timely quotes from Christians all over the world. It was tempting to reproduce some here, but doing so in a fair manner would essentially duplicate the report.
In particular please read over the stories from Canada, the UK, and the U.S. Together they demonstrate the indifference and even contempt that is growing against Christianity in the West.
Please also note a story from India, of an attack on a cathedral in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh state. Over 200 Christians were sleeping in a courtyard (i.e. outdoors) in anticipation of a Bible seminar the next day. That alone is quite a testament.
Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Jabalpur, India – courtesy findjee.com
A comment by a priest on the elections in Nigeria is of great interest.
The Mideast refugee situation continues to fester, with one comment taking on Tolkienesque overtones: Mordor lives, it would seem.
Finally please note a story of a pastor’s arrest and beating in South Sudan: his reaction was a laconic “This detention has been a great encouragement to my spiritual life”.
Please keep up your prayers.
Weekly Commentary March 15-21, 2015
This weekly report is a bit shorter than usual. The largest stories are from the Indian subcontinent.
Last Sunday a concerted attack was made by the Pakistani Taliban on two churches in Lahore. In each church a suicide bomber attempted to enter the premises, supported by a gunman with an automatic weapon. They largely failed. At the Anglican Christ Church a 34 year old parishioner grabbed the bomber and dragged him away from the church until he was shot along with his wife. At St. John’s Catholic Church the bomber attempted to scale the wall that surrounded the church; a 19 year old parishioner pulled him back down and refused to let go of him even after he was shown the explosive vest. These are just unbelievable acts of heroism, and Christians in Pakistan now say they will never forget these martyrs.
Unfortunately another event happened. Christians rioted and murdered two Muslims who they suspected of being involved in the attacks. Other Muslims were terrorized and injured. Most Muslims now consider this atrocity to be a greater crime than the murder of the 17 Christians who died at the two churches. Violence cannot help the Christians of Pakistan: they are so outnumbered, and so the temptation to violence is totally irrational. There is a sense that events are about to unravel. A Pakistani leader in Britain said “This might well be the beginning of the end for Christianity in Pakistan”. Well, probably not, but such comments and the lurid descriptions of the riots depict a population that is near the psychological breaking point. One out of every two hundred Christians has already fled the country.
St. John Church, Lahore, Pakistan – courtesy Times of India
They need so many prayers. Please, please pray.
Weekly Commentary March 8-14, 2015
Up until now, it has been the policy at Today’s Martyrs to prefer the description ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) over the more commonly used ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). The reason for this has been that Syria is just one part of the Levant – the term also includes Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and part of Turkey. The perverse ambitions of ISIL seemed to justify the use of the word Levant with its larger geographic scope.
Then months ago ISIL announced that they would be known as just the ‘Islamic State’ or IS. A confession must be made: for years these groups have been observed to engage in constant rebranding, and so while the geographical unmooring shown in the new name had a grain of ominousness, it also seemed overly ambitious. So with this jaded perception Today’s Martyrs continued to prefer ISIL over IS. This continued even after Christians in Algeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines reported concerns over growing ISIL influence in their countries, and after the ISIL beheadings in Libya.
This week’s news in the linked report – click here to read it – will be forcing a re-evaluation of this policy. Bangladeshi Christians (and some Muslims) are now worried. Boko Haram in Nigeria has pledged its allegiance to ISIL, as has the Egyptian terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. And ISIL has now reached its tentacles into, of all places, the Congo. ISIL appears to be breaking out of its core region. It is becoming nearly everything that al-Qaeda aspired to become but lost when it overreached on September 11, 2001. True, ISIL lacks al-Qaeda’s sophistication and subtlety, but it surpasses it in brutality and sheer force. These differences will make ISIL much less vulnerable to the strategy and tactics that the West preferred to use against al-Qaeda.
The bottom line is that ISIL is here to stay, at least through the end of this decade, and will continue to grow unless the West makes a major shift in how it opposes them. You might see Today’s Martyrs begin the use of the Islamic State label in the near future, as a simple acknowledgement of reality.
God help anyone of any faith who gets in their way.
One other story merits additional attention. In India, Maharashtra state has enacted a total ban on the possession and consumption of beef. The penalty is up to five years’ imprisonment, which prompted one activist to tweet that it is “safer to be born a cow than a girl in India” since the penalty for sexual harassment is only two years’. One implication is that tens of millions of Christians and Muslims will be driven into deeper poverty as a result.
In the West it is common to blame Islamic extremism on poverty, but plenty of evidence points the other way. For example, the al-Qaeda leadership and its terror cells were composed of educated, well-off, and even wealthy individuals. It may be, however, that looming poverty may be about to drive an upswing of Islamic radicalism in India. If this should happen the results will be literally atrocious.
Please pray for all of these poor souls.
Weekly Commentary March 1-7, 2015
This week’s report is much like last’s weeks’ report. Please read it and pray. Also please note the statements made in witness to these events:
“Today we are facing a systematic uprooting of Christians in the East”
“Who can we appeal to? I don’t have anyone but Jesus Christ to appeal to”
“You know persecution is coming, but it feels really surreal when you realize it’s happening to you”
“I came to tell them that God’s love is strong, and they must not stop preaching peace”
Weekly Commentary February 22-28, 2015
This week’s report is 14 pages long. Please take your time with it and remember each person and their loved ones in your prayers. Included in this litany are some of the relatives of the 21 men beheaded in Libya, and the Syrian and Lebanese clergy who have witnessed the mass abductions of hundreds of Christians this week by the Islamic State. Two of the bishops have noted that the U.S. led air strikes against the Islamic State have stopped; the reason most likely for this is that these Christians are now being used as human shields.
May God help them all.
The truly horrible nature of these conflicts is now apparent. If people sit home in the hope they will be left alone then they are attacked, killed, and enslaved. If they flee they find their movements are restricted, nearby borders are closed to them, and they are trapped. If they appeal to the world to save them they are met with platitudes or with silence, or with the help of some bombs which accomplish little if anything.
May God help us all.
Weekly Commentary February 15-21, 2015
This week’s report contains the horrific mass beheadings by ISIL in Libya. There is also news of several people being released from prison or jail in various countries.
There is an unusually disturbing story from France, due to the scale of the sacrilege and the desperation of the response.
Just a reminder: there were many more accounts this week of martyrdom in which no names were available, and so they are not reported here. Please remember all Christian martyrs – and the righteous of every faith – in your prayers.
Weekly Commentary February 8-14, 2015
This week’s report is available by clicking here. Be warned, it may be the most emotionally draining report in some time, due to several tragic or atrocious stories involving babies, among others. Our moral imaginations cause us to envisage the suffering of these poor people, and it is painful.
People might ask about a God that allows suffering and pain, but reading all this might lead us to wonder about a God who sees and feels and suffers this pain – if it is so hard for us it must be infinitely hard for Him. If we ask God “Why?” then we need to realize it is also His question to us as well. We often hear the ideal that we should “offer our suffering to God”, and while this is fine perhaps it is incomplete, perhaps we should “offer our suffering WITH God” as well. Perhaps we are really less alone in our pain than we can imagine.
Please pray. Pray for these people, and pray for us all.
Weekly Commentary February 1-7, 2015
So many stories in this week’s report.
One of the missing Catholic bishops in China has been reported to have died.
A story from Germany shows how laws passed by governments to help the Church can in the end harm it. Germany has been known for using taxes on Christians to support church activities, to the point where churches get more money than they can spend, hence the scandal of $40 million rectory renovations. Now tax regulators’ sense of fairness has resulted in tax increases that have caused nearly a half million Christians to resign from their churches. .
The accounts from Nigeria show that Boko Haram’s advance is still underway despite recent setbacks. The jihadists now control an area the size of Belgium and have made a massed attack inside Cameroon that killed at least 100. Soldiers from Cameroon, Chad, and Niger are operating inside Nigeria. A boy who escaped from them told a tale of how the international media spotlight has become a consideration in Boko Haram plans.
In India we again have a story of government indifference, the most blatant one yet. Hundreds of Christians of all denominations gathered at the Delhi Catholic cathedral to march with a petition to the residence of the Home Minister; the petition dealt with the growing lack of police protection for Christians from the Hindu radicals. The police response was massive: they invoked a law meant for insurrections and detained hundreds of the protestors. Priests, nuns, elderly, and children were all beaten and arrested. This is telling, especially in consideration of the police inactivity with Hindu violence. It would appear that the ability of Indian Christians to influence their government for the better is waning. A few protest leaders did get to meet with the Home Minister the following day, at which he made some vague promises of ensuring that the police would apply the laws equally.
Please remember all of these people in your prayers.
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Delhi, India
Weekly Commentary January 25-31, 2015
This week’s report truly spans the globe, with stories from every region and continent but Australia and Oceania, and nearly every denomination represented.
In an unusual pairing of events, President Barack Obama appears in two stories. One of these is another analysis of India by Dr. John Dayal, which is worth reading in its entirety by following the link in the report.
Please pray for everyone involved.
Weekly Commentary January 18-24, 2015
Among the many important stories in this week’s report two are of particular interest.
The first story is the near total destruction of the institutional church in Niger. The Muslim president of the country flew to Paris last week and joined in the anti-jihad / pro-free speech rally that was attended by many heads of state after the murders at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office. Days later the magazine published a new issue with a cartoon of Muhammed. On January 17, 2015 mobs streamed out of the mosques in Niger following Friday prayers and began to attack Christian (and French) establishments and residences. The president denounced the rioting as unIslamic, but too many refused to heed him.
By the following Friday the only remaining church building in Niger was the Catholic cathedral in the capital, and that only stood thanks to the army. The institutional church is almost gone, but the spiritual church survives. Unnamed missionaries wrote “Last night the church members met for prayer as the pastor, who lost everything, encouraged them by flashlight to not only stand strong, but to move forward and to know that this attack will grow the church. The room was dark on the outside but illuminated by the fire in the hearts of His people, even as stones were being thrown on the roof”.
The second story is that of the Pakistani family who suffered the gang rape of two daughters because they were poor Christians with no indoor toilet. Readers should follow the link in the to the original story and study the photographs. British Christians have begun a fund to install toilets in not only this family’s home but in many more. This story almost begs the question: if the Holy Family were on earth today would Joseph and Jesus be plumbers rather than carpenters? Deliverance from evil comes in many forms. Read the full story and decide for yourself.
Weekly Commentary January 11-17, 2015
Many more people to pray for in this week’s report. More deaths than usual for those with names, and due to an unusually varied number of causes. Those unnamed are also dying in large numbers in Lebanon and Nigeria, both Christians and Muslims side by side.
Prison authorities in Iran pulled a mean bait-and-switch stunt against their Christian prisoners. They probably laughed all the way home over it.
The Indian news continues to be ominous. Perhaps the most outrageous item concerns an ecumenical group of church leaders who met with Prime Minister Modi around Christmastime. They pleaded with him to publicly denounce the growing Hindu attacks on Christians. Modi not only refused but he lied to the church leaders, stating that there were no attacks and that the news stories reporting on the persecution were politically motivated against his development policies. He knows full well what the RSS paramilitaries and the other Sangh Parivar groups are doing.
Please continue and deepen your prayers.
Weekly Commentary January 4-10, 2015
This is the week that many Christmas stories begin to appear. We have in this week’s report stories of attacks or threats thereof against Christmas in China, India (again), and the United States. There has also been at least two such attacks in Egypt, but no names of the involved Christians have been published as of yet.
The most recent story from Nigeria states that Boko Haram may have killed up to 2,000 people in the last few days. In this report Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku also made an interesting comment: “Though it is noted that in general the national media tend to reduce the number of victims not to further inflame the minds…One must bear in mind that the presidential election campaign for February has opened this week. The situation is particularly delicate…”
Today’s Martyrs has had the subjective impression that the news from Nigeria has slackened as of late, so this comment prompted a review of the Today’s Martyrs archives to see if there was any evidence to support this. The resulting statistics say no: there were 25% more reported incidents from Nigeria in the second half of 2014 compared against the previous year. Also, the number of ‘person-incidents’ – the total number of people named in these incidents – almost doubled in 2014 in comparison with 2013. Half of this increase is associated with the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, so if we consider that atrocity as a reporting outlier we still have to conclude that our Nigerian correspondents are not slacking off. Put it another way: if they are hiding the full extent of the persecution there then they are 1) not doing a good job of hiding it, and 2) the increase of persecution must be much worse than what we already know it to be.
Weekly Commentary December 28, 2014 – January 3, 2015
Welcome to 2015. It looks very much like the end of 2014.
Quite a lot about India again in this week’s report. Most will recognize the source of the article by Dr. John Dayal, which came out in a Today’s Martyrs biography on New Year’s Eve. Also please note the quote from David Dayalan concerning persecution.
Iraq news continues to be hard to read.
One item did not make this week’s report. A suicide bomber attacked a church on New Year’s Day in Nigeria but the attack was thwarted by the church’s Boys Brigade [Boy Scouts]. Eight of the Boys were injured, one seriously enough that he might lose an arm. This has happened before, but this is the first time any of the Boys have been seriously injured. Can you imagine what it would be like for Westerners to have their Boy Scouts guard churches from attack, and be repeatedly successful at it? Today’s Martyrs wishes that we had their names, but we will have to pray for them anonymously, as we must for so many. Thank you.
Blog – 2015 1st Quarter