• Blog – 2016 1st Quarter


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    Weekly Commentary   March 20-26, 2016

    This Holy Week report (Western calendar) has accounts that run from the murderous to the analytical.

    Two Christians were murdered, one in Bangladesh and one in the Congo. The Congolese murder was of a priest who had been documenting atrocities against local people by the government, and it was government soldiers who killed him. He had predicted his murder five months ago.

    Sexual violence against Christian women continued. A 13 year old convert from Islam in Uganda was raped by a man who had been hired by her aunts and uncles for the purpose. In Pakistan a young woman who had been abducted and forcibly married has been returned to her family through court action. A second Pakistani woman who last month escaped from a forced marriage was recaptured by her abductor.

    Among these vile stories one in particular stands out. A pastor in Cuba was arrested hours before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama. Days earlier he was stabbed with a pin by a likely police agent, and subsequently developed symptoms consistent with hepatitis. After his arrest he was denied food and water.

    An 8 year old child was badly beaten by his teacher in Egypt.

    When we read these accounts let us place them in our hearts with the Crucifixion of our Lord, which we just commemorated on Good Friday. On Easter we celebrate His Resurrection, the most joyous event in history. After Easter we will be spiritually returning to a world where people suffer for our faith, but let us make full use of Easter Day to hold onto the Triumph. Easter is one day we can work for victory by celebrating Victory.


     

    Call to Prayer – March 22, 2016

    When reputed members of the Islamic State murdered four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen on Friday March 4, 2016, they also abducted a Latin-rite Catholic priest of the Salesian order, Father Tom Uzhunnalil. Father Tom had an opportunity to escape during the attack, but chose to remain in the nursing home’s chapel to consume the Eucharist so as to prevent its desecration by the jihadists.

    Tom Uzhunnalil

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The Rector of the Salesian order, Father Angel Fernandez Artime, has asked people “to live a very intense moment of prayer on Holy Thursday, when we will accompany Jesus in the pain and loneliness of Gethsemane” for the intentions of Father Tom and his extended family.

    Father Mathew Valarkot, spokesman for the Salesians of Bangalore in India, Father Tom’s province, wrote “…we continue to pray for Father Tom, may the Lord protect him from all pain and deliver him from the clutches of evil forces as soon as possible”.

    So on the evening of Holy Thursday, when we remember the Agony in the Garden, let us remember Father Tom Uzhunnalil and ask that any cup of suffering that may have been placed before him will be taken away.

    Please forward this request to anyone who would be inclined to hear this call.

    Here is the link to the article with this prayer request:

    http://www.fides.org/en/news/59692-ASIA_YEMEN_Holy_Thursday_in_prayer_for_peace_and_for_Fr_Tom_kidnapped_in_Yemen#.VvH6_sIUUfg


     

    Weekly Commentary   March 13-19, 2016

    The major story this week is the declaration by the U.S. State Department that the Islamic State (ISIL) has been perpetrating genocide against Christians in the Mideast. Two facets of this story can be seen in this week’s report (click here to read). First, we list the efforts of Christians to galvanize public opinion so that the State Department could no longer obfuscate on this subject. Second, we have the reactions of church leaders in the Mideast, reactions which have not been unified by any means.

    Incidentally, the past refusal of the State Department to recognize the genocide of Christians while recognizing the genocide of non-Christians appears to be rooted in a de facto acceptance of Islamic law, the sharia. Under sharia conquered people who are neither Jews nor Christians may be given the choice of death or conversion to Islam. Jews and Christians have a third choice: pay the jizya (tribute). Jizya is often described as a poll tax, because it is assessed on a per capita basis: everyone must pay the same amount regardless of their ability to pay. In the real world this means that many Christians face imminent bankruptcy, and once bankrupt they are offered only death or conversion (the Islamic State has allowed a fourth option: forced expulsion from their homes, another hallmark of genocide). So we see how the jizya loophole can quickly close around the necks of Christians, but without public protest it never closes in the minds of certain State Department officials.

    Now we will have to see if any good comes from this belated recognition of reality.

    Elsewhere Christians have been killed in Brazil, Guatemala, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria. A large number of the 20 countries listed in this report have detained or continue to unjustly detain Christians. A close reading of this report will show that agencies that fit the description of ‘secret police’ are once again becoming popular among authoritarian regimes.

    We also have stories of real faith:

    • Four seminarians who are refugees in Iraq have decided to be ordained to the diaconate in a refugee camp, and will do the same in a few months for the priesthood. Their reasoning is simple: before ordination they lived in the camps, and after ordination they will be serving in the camps.
    • A priest in the Ivory Coast described his efforts to shelter people during a beachside terror attack.
    • A Jordanian Christian documented the disappearance of Christianity from the school history texts.
    • A church volunteer security guard who was grievously wounded in last year’s attempted double church bombings in Pakistan praised God for using the anniversary celebration to bring Christians and Muslims together; another volunteer guard who only lost an eye expressed his happiness at being able to protect his bishop and priests.

    Faith! We often feel that we have so little. Stories such as these show us people who are really little different that we, but who do seem to have so much faith. In truth we all can receive the gift of God’s grace, and grace will always strengthen faith. Pray for grace, be open to receive grace, and do not worry about the future, because with grace we will be more likely to do what God desires for us and for our fellow citizens of His creation.


     

    Weekly Commentary   March 6-12, 2016

    The major story on this week’s report is the murder of four Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen, and the abduction of a priest who was present at their nursing home when it was attacked. This nursing home had been dedicated by Mother Teresa herself when it was opened. The nuns certainly did not seek martyrdom by being in Yemen, they did try to escape but were shot down. A fifth nun did survive by hiding in a refrigerator. We should certainly remember them and the other 12 employees (probably most of them Muslims) who died serving “the poorest of the poor”.

    Also, bear in mind that two of the murdered nuns were Rwandan citizens, and were young (22 and 10 years of age) during the genocide there.

    Another Christian was murdered in Pakistan, and stories from Cameroon, Canada, and India point to the possible murders of others in the future.

    Please look over the four pages of this report and give your prayers up for the benefit of all God’s people.


     

    Weekly Commentary   February 28 – March 5, 2016

    This week’s report (click here to read) brings us accounts of 58 Christians from 15 countries.

    Rioting broke out in Pakistan after the execution of the murderer of the Muslim governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer. Governor Taseer had been shot dead in 2011 by one of his own bodyguards after he courageously defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, from a conviction for blasphemy. Christians in Pakistan reported that the rioters were menacing towards them but thankfully no atrocities were reported. It would seem that prayers for everyone’s safety were answered, so let us please be inspired to continue praying for Pakistan.

    The mass killings of Christians in Nigeria continued.

    The parents of three teen girls in India were murdered.

    Another Christian military conscript in Egypt died from a gunshot wound while with his unit and was ruled a suicide.

    Christian refugees in Iraq, Thailand, and Turkey related their stories. Please do not forget them.

    Seventeen other stories can be found in this week’s report. Please look them over and say a prayer for each.


     

    Weekly Commentary   February 21-27, 2016

    A mercifully short report this week, with NO deaths reported. We will forgo a news synopsis and just mention a couple of interesting stories.

    In India, the RSS paramilitary organization has decided to republish a 1946 book by one of its founders that claims that Jesus was in fact a Tamil Hindu. Many Christians in India have decided to respond to this with laughter. The idea, of course, has floated around since 1946, so the republication is an issue only insofar as it may encourage members of the RSS and other Sangh Parivar organizations to further denigrate Christianity. The fact is that the Hindu radicals themselves don’t believe a word of it – as one church leader said, if it were true then Christians would be just adherents of another Hindu sect, in which case they should not be persecuted by Hindus. The ongoing persecution proves otherwise.

    A report from Malaysia describes continued efforts to convert Christian schoolchildren to Islam. Sister Rita Chew is described as saying that “conversions take place” in public and even Catholic schools. The details are not elaborated, but other accounts from around the world commonly agree that children are persuaded in one way or another to say the shahada, the Islamic creed that is spoken to accept Islam. Once said, the words cannot be revoked, and any attempt to abandon Islam is considered apostasy and can incur all of the penalties specified by Islamic law. The age and mental condition of the speaker does not matter. Technically, the intent of the speaker matters (under the Islamic doctrine of niyya), but practically it is always assumed that the speaker of the shahada intended to convert, and lack of intent is virtually impossible to prove. In some Islamic countries such as Pakistan Christian parents live in fear that their child might be persuaded to recite the shahada; afterward their child could be subjected to threats to be taken from them. It is entirely possible that these Malaysian conversions are conducted by fellow students, even in elementary school. We should try to imagine what life would be like for us if we were to live under such social conditions.


     

    Weekly Commentary   February 14-20, 2016

    Our report this week is a seven page account of the often clichéd banality of evil. These incidents seem small and petty, but only if we discount the harm done to the victims.

    Christians were killed in a refugee camp in France, in the civil war in Syria, and in a domestic dispute involving a minister in the United States.

    Christians were arrested or abducted or continued to be incarcerated in China, Egypt, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.

    Churches or services were attacked in Cuba, India, and Mexico. In the Cuban incident the children of the pastor screamed as their mother was taken into custody.

    Assaults or threats were made against Christians in France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Spain (via an unjust prosecution), and Turkey. A four year old Christian girl in India suffered a broken leg during one attack.

    Christians were freed from captivity in China, including a young mother of two who spent two years in prison for directing a church-sponsored kindergarten.

    Please consider a Syrian 13 year old boy who asked ‘Why do I have to study? I am going to die’. Consider the tragedy of that statement from a boy who has known war for a third of his life.  Please remember these people, and all the unnamed others, in your prayers.


     

    Weekly Commentary   February 7-13, 2016

    In this week’s report we have news items from sixteen countries.

    Christians have been released from captivity in Burkina Faso (though the actual release was in Niger), China, and Egypt. A Christian in Pakistan who had been abducted and forced into an Islamic marriage has escaped. Christians have won legal battles in Canada and the United Kingdom, and have initiated a legal battle in the United States. Please thank God for each.

    A Christian has been killed in Uganda. Many other cases of persecution are listed on this report, please pray for them all.

    An event not directly reported here is the February 12, 2016 meeting between Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and Pope Francis of the Catholic Church in Havana, Cuba. Much of the official statement – which can be read here in full – deals with persecution, so much so that it would be better to read the full document than to excerpt it here. However, one item on this week’s report is a report from Syria concerning the meeting: “The meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill is perceived by Christians as the fruit of the cross they are experiencing. The suffering of all Christians in the Middle East bears the fruit of unity. This for us is a great consolation and helps us to move forward, even if we still have to suffer”. If only we all had faith like this.


     

    Weekly Commentary   January 31 – February 6, 2016

    In this week’s report (click here to read) we have a Christian beheaded in a terror attack in Kenya, two killed in a terror bombing in Syria, and one killed by police in Pakistan. Another Christian woman has disappeared in Egypt. Christians were abducted or arrested in Belarus, China, India, Nigeria, and were assaulted in Pakistan and Turkey.

    Christians were released from captivity or prosecution in Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Sudan.

    Many other stories too numerous to list are also included.

    Perhaps the largest story has come out of Rome and Moscow. For years the Vatican has been rebuffed in attempts to arrange a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Now, suddenly Patriarch Kirill has agreed to meet Pope Francis in Cuba on February 12, 2016. The Moscow Patriarchate is describing the meeting as “urgent” and prompted by the “Christian genocide”. This is major news, and we will have to hope and pray that this meeting will lead to substantial improvement in the plight of the persecuted.


     

    Announcement   February 2, 2016

    Hopefully today will mark the resumption of our publication.  No Today’s Martyrs reports were published for the week of January 24-30, which is the first such break in publication in almost 3 years.

    Instead of contemplating human evil, we spent more than a week contemplating a natural evil – a respiratory virus.

    Right now Today’s Martyrs has some good depth in business and computer skills.  We do not have as much depth with our research and writing skills.  If we had more depth then a simple illness would no longer be a threat to our continuity of operations.

    Is there anyone who would like to help us build more depth by helping us research and write our accounts?  If so please let us know.


     

    Weekly Commentary   January 17-23, 2016

    Great news! Pastor Saeed Abedini has been released from prison in Iran and flown to Germany. You may click here to read the full report. Also, the Indian government has reversed its decision regarding the granting of a visa to Sister Bertilla Capra: she may now work another year with her leprosy patients.

    On the other hand, the Indian government created a diplomatic row with Russia when it deported a priest who had arrived to serve the pastoral needs of Russian diplomats.

    Christians were killed in Burkina Faso and in Pakistan. Christians were detained in China, Cuba, and Thailand.  Churches were demolished in Cuba and subjected to an attempted bombing in Egypt.  Christians reported on threats in Indonesia, Israel, Syria, and Vietnam.

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    Basilica of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, Jerusalem, Israel – courtesy Wikipedia

    We would like to end with two stories that show the great diversity of religious views amongst us, and why there are sometimes no simple categories.

    The story from India is very interesting. A number of people were attacked by Hindu nationalists during a Hindu festival for having converted to Christianity. The reaction of these people was very interesting: they maintained they were NOT Christians, but admitted that they prayed to Jesus. Are they Hindus who are making use of the noted ability of their faith to absorb other religious practices? Perhaps, yet they admitted to having an evangelical Christian pastor as an advisor. Are they catechumens who are trying to live under scrutiny by delaying their baptisms, as often happened during the Roman empire? Or are they something else, syncretic believers of a new kind? Is their pastor engaging in a new variant of inculturation, as St. Paul did in Athens? It would be interesting to know. We included them in this report because we do not know that they are not Christians, or because they may not be Christians but may become so in the future.

    The story from Kenya is tragic yet hopeful. Readers may recall the December 23, 2015 terror attack on a bus in Elwak, Kenya in which most Christians were saved by the Muslim passengers. One of those passengers, a teacher and assistant principal named Salah Sabdow Farah, was shot during the attack when he denounced the terrorists, and he has now died in surgery. This man is a true martyr, and since he was not Christian we have added his name to our prayer intentions page. Pray they he will be an inspiration for more such acts of love and mercy by Muslims.


     

    Weekly Commentary   January 10-16, 2016

    Before delving into this week’s Today’s Martyrs report, we would like to draw your attention to Open Doors International’s report on Christian persecution in 2015. This report is the type of survey that Today’s Martyrs generally does not produce. Open Doors has called 2015 the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution”. You may want to look it over.

    The Today’s Martyrs report for this week (click here to read) has some good stories: a Christian was released on bail in Iran, the Kenyan government backed down on its proposals to regulate churches, and the death of an elderly priest in Slovakia served as a commemoration of his fidelity to the Faith during the years of Communist rule.

    As to the rest…

    Christians were killed or died of neglect in Bangladesh (which continues to worsen), Egypt, Mali (previously reported but without names), Pakistan, and Thailand.

    Christians were abducted or detained or continued to be so in Bangladesh, China, India, Mali, North Korea, Pakistan, and – in a first since 2011 – Zimbabwe. Pakistan comprises one-quarter of this report.

    Governments continue to place restrictions on Christians in Egypt, Indonesia, and potentially in the United Kingdom.

    One report from India (without any names, unfortunately, so this is not in our weekly report) described how Hindu radicals in one state mounted a mass transit strike on Christmas to prevent Christians from travelling that day to church or to see family. Nigeria has also been the source of numerous reports of the killing of unnamed Christians by Boko Haram.

    Lastly, Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, wrote that her observation is that churches have become too worldly and thus cannot effectively respond to aid the persecuted. Is that what you see?  Is Christian worldliness contributing to persecution and martyrdom?  What do you say?


     

    Weekly Commentary   January 3-9, 2016

    Merry Christmas to our Orthodox readers!

    Our stories this week (click here to read) include a release from captivity in Syria, and acquittals for Christians in Sudan and the United Kingdom. Another Christian has been arrested in Sudan for becoming a Christian.

    We have stories of Christians killed in Brazil and Kenya, with one of the Kenyan stories a follow-on to the previously reported account of a terror attack on a bus. Another Syrian account is of the reaction of church leaders to the previously reported accounts of the suicide bombings of three restaurants.

    So we have a smaller report than most, but no report is ever really small. Every human life looms large in God’s eyes. But still, let us pray for more small reports and that such reports reflect the true state of the world. It would be nice, after all, if we could believe that people really listen to what God asks of us all.


     

    Weekly Commentary   December 27, 2015 – January 2, 2016

    Welcome to 2016! Your first report of the year is available by clicking here.

    The Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL) freed 25 Syrian Christians, mostly children and their mothers, on Christmas, and then five days later killed 13 Syrian Christians in suicide bombings of three restaurants.

    A 30 year old Pakistani mother and refugee in Thailand died when immigration authorities detained her on a visa violation and then denied her access to her medication. After her death her family was denied access to her body due to their visa irregularities.

    Several Christians were killed in Nigeria and the Philippines.  Unfortunately we have no names to report from Nigeria, and only the name of the local reporting clergyman in the Philippines.

    Bangladeshi Christians report an increase in death threats against them.

    Christians have been abducted, arrested or continue to be detained in China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Sudan, and Syria.

    A 77-year old nun has been denied a visa to stay in India and continue her 44 year ministry with leprosy patients.

    In the case of the Bodnariu family, the Norwegian government’s child protective agency has decided to begin the process of putting their five children up for adoption despite the fact that no court has issued a judgement against them. This is not the first such case, only the first in which the excuse has been the Christian beliefs of the parents.  Another family appealed to the Supreme Court and won an order to return their children to them, and the agency announced that it would still proceed with their adoption because it believed that after two years it would be too traumatic for them to be returned to their parents!  The president of the Czech Republic personally protested another case, citing parallels between the Norwegian policies and the Nazi-era Lebensborn program.  This is one of those cases in which good may come from pressure from individuals in foreign lands – please pray and consider whatever peaceful action you may be inspired to take.

    Please also consider the call of Eritrean refugee Helen Berhane for us to assist the persecuted: “You cannot do anything by yourself. We need many kinds of people. It doesn’t matter what kind of religion they have or which doctrine; we must be united and pray for the voiceless”.

     

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