Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this. – Revelation 1:19
Clockwise from upper left: Church burning in Peshawar, Pakistan; feminists attack a cathedral in San Juan, Argentina; cross burning in Pakistan – courtesy Abiz Nawaz; massacre of Christian students at Garissa University College in Kenya; army tank sale to Nicaragua; young Christians pray in a burned-out church in Egypt; RSS Hindu paramilitary rally in India.
Weekly Commentary August 12-18, 2018
Lara’s Confession: Jose Nieto and Julie Christie, Doctor Zhivago – courtesy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
We have no report this week. There were few stories concerning martyrs published in the beginning of the week, and as the week progressed the news that became dominant regarded sexual scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. As we researched these many, many stories it became apparent that there were three themes that were not mentioned in the usual angry coverage of the scandals. One of these themes directly relates to the mission of Today’s Martyrs, and the other two are tangentially related, so we have decided to forgo our usual reporting and to comment on these stories instead.
First, we will state the obvious, which has been stated by nearly everyone: the sexual exploitation of children, young adults, and adults is vile and evil.
Second, it is becoming obvious that this evil is not related in the main to the psychiatric disorder of pedophilia, but rather is the result of a large clique of homosexual clergy.
The fact that many victims have been adult seminarians proves this to be true.
How has this happened? Many Catholics have for years accepted the idea that, despite the official canons and doctrine of their church, it was permissible to allow homosexuals to enter the clergy. After all, celibacy applied to every cleric equally in the Latin rite church, regardless of orientation, so in theory it should be possible for a priest or bishop to be faithful despite possessing a homosexual orientation.
This experiment has now been shown to be a failure. The motives of Catholic heterosexuals in treating Catholic homosexuals as equals has simply not been reciprocated. Such homosexual clergy have been shown to have actively colluded with one another to advance their influence and privileges at the expense of their heterosexual conferees.
So we arrive at the three issues most pertinent to Today’s Martyrs:
Third, story after story that has become public in the last few weeks has shown that many seminarians and priests have suffered greatly at the hands of this homosexual clique.
Men have been driven out of seminaries, or not accepted in the first place, due to their unwillingness to approve or join this power-hungry clique. Faithful priests are now beginning to publicly tell their accounts of humiliation, discrimination, banishment, and suspension at the hands of homosexual clergy. One good priest even wrote that a homosexual pastor tried to stop his transfer into his parish with threats to frame him with false child molestation charges, because his arrival would interfere with the pastor’s use of the rectory by his live-in partner.
This differs from our prior focus, which mainly concentrated on those priests who were falsely convicted of sex crimes, such as Fr. Charles Engelhardt and Fr. Gordon MacRae (see thesestonewalls.com ).
If anyone thinks this is a Catholic only problem, they are gravely mistaken.
The Orthodox writer Rod Dreher, who is among the leading journalists on this matter, has repeatedly said that the Orthodox Church is just as compromised.
Just two weeks ago Bishop Gavin Ashenden commented on the extensive compromises that have been committed by the Church of England under the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (see https://youtu.be/ptE79VO-tJ4?t=667 )
It has become apparent that many men – and certainly women – are in fact martyrs who have suffered grievously for their faithful service to the Christian church. Only the lack of corroboration is keeping us from reporting these stories in the same manner as the others we normally cover. That may change.
And if these people are in fact martyrs, are not those who actually have been molested and who have struggled to retain their faith in God also martyrs?
Fourth, our research has shown that scandals involving Church leaders have appeared in other parts of the world where real persecution exists, but we have almost never seen those leaders who attempt to protect their fellow Christians from harm (and so run a real risk that they themselves will be persecuted) become ensnared in real scandal.
The Today’s Martyrs archives currently list the names of nearly fourteen thousand Christians. Here is the number who have fallen into real (versus a fabricated) financial or sexual scandal: two. Church leaders who risk their lives for their fellow Christians are simply not the type of people to seek their own advantage in worldly matters. Conversely, Church leaders who never lift a finger to help persecuted Christians would seem to be among those most at risk of scandal.
Fifth, it is apparent that abuse of the Catholic Sacrament of Penance, commonly known as Confession, is deeply implicated in these scandals.
This is a matter that no one has yet mentioned. Aside from most of the Reformed and the non-Trinitarian denominations, nearly every Christian church has a tradition of absolution of sins after some form of confession. Their terminology, theology, and practice widely differ, but the fundamental act is widespread and accepted.
Many of the scandal stories coming from seminarians and priests have a common underlying theme: the members of the homosexual clique have been using information gained under the ‘Seal of Confession’, or which should have been under the ‘Seal of Confession’, for their own base and selfish empowerment. They have used such information to blackmail seminarians and clergy. It is not hard to imagine that they have used such information to identify potential victims. It is not hard to imagine that corrupt clergy found ways to share and collate such information despite its privileged nature.
This revelation demonstrates an attack on the heart of the sacramental life that many if not most Christians hold dear. It demonstrates a lack of fear of God among the perpetrators. It raises the possibility that they really have no faith at all.
Since in Catholic law and practice the ‘Seal of Confession’ is considered to be inviolable, something that is protected at the price of excommunication, it is possible that many members of this clique are in fact no longer in communion with the Church and as such are no longer valid ministers, despite their public presence.
These are matters for canon lawyers to decide, not only as to degree of guilt but also as to any need to reform the language of the church canons. Perhaps a priest should incur automatic excommunication for any inappropriate contact with anyone who has confessed to him – a standard similar to that now imposed on licensed mental health professionals.
As to the rest, to the questions as to who really has been faithful, who has truly suffered martyrdom in these betrayals, is a matter known only to God, although the New Testament has told us that the day will come when nothing will be hidden from our eyes.
Weekly Commentary July 29 – August 4, 2018
The lede story in this week’s report is the murder of a bishop and abbot in Egypt. Epiphanios was the leader of over 100 monks at Saint Macarius Monastery in Wadi Natrun, Beheira province. The respected scholar was found dead in a hallway between his room [his “cell”] and his office, along with three other monks who had been beaten into semi-consciousness. Police are investigating; pray they will be honest and that no monks are falsely implicated.
Saint Macarius Monastery in Wadi Natrun, Beheira province – courtesy Wikipedia and Bertold Werner
Another church in Egypt was attacked by Muslim rioters after the church’s baker of communion bread reposted an article on Facebook comparing Christianity and Islam. Several Christian homes in the village were also attacked. The baker was arrested.
Saint Tadros church, Menbal-village, Egypt – courtesy World Watch Monitor
We have a retraction of a previous story. A pastor in Burkina Faso – the former Upper Volta in west Africa – had been reported by local Christians as having been freed from captivity along with much of his extended family. His adult son then discovered the report was false.
Persecution by governments was reported from Algeria, China, India, Iran, Ireland, Turkey, and Vietnam.
There were an unusual number of stories in this week’s report concerning paramilitary organizations posing threats to Christians and others, including in India, Iraq, Nicaragua, and Northern Ireland.
Besides these stories, clergy were also physically attacked in Nepal and the United States.
Once again we have evidence of a world where more people than ever seek to empower themselves at the expense of their neighbors, where governments continue to fail in their basic responsibilities, and where individuals are attacked almost at random. Please pray for all of these people and their situations. Please pray that social decay and dissolution will diminish for the sake of all.
Resurrection Church, Pine Creek, Delaware
Weekly Commentary July 22-28, 2018
This week’s report (please click here to read in full) has several good stories which highlight Christian patience and resilience. Pastor Andrew Brunson has been released from jail in Turkey and placed under house arrest. Three Ugandan children who were abducted in 2015 in retaliation for their parents’ conversion from Islam were recovered and reunited with their family. A street vendor in England prevailed in court and regained his market license, which had been revoked a year ago after he handed out religious literature from his stall. An Australian missionary nun in the Philippines has again delayed her deportation. The most moving story was of the ordination to the priesthood of the son of a widely respected priest who was beheaded in Iraq in 2006 – nothing quite speaks of faith as the willingness of a man to follow in the footsteps of his father, in full knowledge of the sacrifice that might result.
St Paul’s Cathedral, London, United Kingdom – courtesy Barnabas Aid
Of course, most of the news is not so glad. Christians were reported killed in Cameroon, Colombia, Egypt, and [though unnamed] in Nigeria. Christians continued to be deprived of their liberty in China, India, and Iran (in which an ugly incident occurred when a teenager was attacked by police with an electroshock weapon just after he opened the door for them, and his father was likewise shocked and then beaten while incapacitated). Christians were assaulted in their church in Pakistan, and subjected to legal and illegal harassment in China, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
We also have an analysis of the recent election in Pakistan, which appears to have strengthened the advocates of the blasphemy laws. These laws have been used to ruin the lives of thousands, and while the election results look promising in some ways they bode ill for the lives of the Pakistanis who follow the Crucified One with such devotion. Please pray for them and for all on this report.
Weekly Commentary July 15-21, 2018
This week’s report (click here to read in full) lists stories from twelve nations, including our first report from Rwanda since 2007. Nearly one-third of the report concerns India. Several reports include heartfelt and moving quotes from Christians, and so we will allow them to speak for themselves:
- A disbarred civil rights attorney in China who must use crutches due to police torture gave her opinion on increasing government pressures on churches: “control is more and more severe. They are preparing for further suppression by touching base and collecting information. This is only the start”. Other churches were raided during worship services or demolished.
- A Christian leader in south-eastern India said “On one side, we see the Hindu extremists barging inside the churches and attacking pastors, and the other side is what goes on behind us – in remote areas, they are burning away churches”
- An Indian pastor said “That week, we conducted a VBS [Vacation Bible School] program for children in the church. There was opposition from Hindu fundamentalists in Thiruvannamalai, but we continued the church services…As the roof was woven with coconut leaves, it is enough to ignite a small portion [after the children left] and the fire can spread all over easily in short time…We don’t have enough means to rebuild the church, even if temporarily”
- A priest in Nicaragua spoke after pro-government paramilitaries shot at protestors seeking refuge in his church and prevented ambulances from arriving: “They are shooting at a church. The government says it respects human rights. Is this respecting human rights?”
- A bishop in the Philippines spoke after a 27 year old widow and mother of two was murdered in apparent retaliation for her leading a support group for widows of men killed by government death squads: “I feel so, so, so, so sad that I am not able to protect my flock from the wolves. Today, in utter shame and frustration, I declare I have not been a good shepherd to my flock. The wolves, they have been prowling the streets and alleys of [the Manila suburbs of] Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas for almost two years now. They have killed hundreds already, and I am unable to protect them with my life…I will bow in shame if the Good Shepherd will denounce me as a mere hireling who remains very safe and very secure, who can get a good night’s sleep in his warm bed while his sheep are being slaughtered”
- Leaders in Canada, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, and the United States commented on government harassment and obstruction of their ministries; of the eight stories from these countries only in one from the U.S. was there a clear victory for our side, and a half-victory in the UK
Advent Christian Church, Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu state, India – courtesy Morning Star News
Official church in Liangwang, Shandong province, China (before and after) – courtesy AsiaNews
Please remember in your prayers all of our fellow Christians who suffer so much. God bless you.
Weekly Commentary July 8-14, 2018
As is our usual preference, we will begin our commentary on this week’s report with the good news:
- An abducted Egyptian college student was returned to her family.
- Six Christians were acquitted in Nepal of illegally handing out religious literature.
- In Sudan a church which had been seized by the government four years ago for office space was returned to its congregation.
- A professor of political science at a nominally Christian university in the United States who had been suspended for defending a Christian student’s defense of traditional marriage prevailed in his state supreme court for reinstatement.
Sudan Pentecostal Church, Khartoum – courtesy Morningstar News
In Nigeria the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria issued a statement concerning the continuing mass murder of Christians: entitled Shameful Inversion of Values: The Plateau Massacre, it documents the horrible devaluation of human life that is underway. The statement can be read in full by clicking here. Members of other churches gave additional witness to these events.
A priest was shot in an apparent robbery in Venezuela and he later died in the hospital.
An armed man with possible lethal intent invaded the residence of a bishop in the Philippines but was killed by police.
The usual tabulation of beatings and false arrests in India covers one-fifth of this week’s report. In one case Hindu radicals dragged their Christian victims from an ambulance for another beating, and then showed up at the hospital to demand they be treated instead of the Christians.
Nicaraguan pro-government paramilitaries were allowed by police to assault a cathedral to beat its occupants – included among the bishops who were attacked were the nation’s cardinal and the Vatican ambassador.
Another girl was reported to have been abducted in Egypt and has not been found.
Our report lists one serious case of persecution in China and in Sudan, two in Uganda, and three in the United Kingdom.
How should we respond to these events? Most of us are mere witnesses to the news, so we can do little better than to take our inspiration from others. The Nigerians this week responded to the martyrdom of their people with strong statements from the educated mind. The Nicaraguans responded with the interposition of their own bodies to minimize violence. The Sudanese pastor, a man who has suffered multiple arrests in the past in the service of his people, led them in prayer to thank God for the good they had received with great warmth and gladness. Perhaps this last story is the most telling, for in the end after we have been delivered from these trials we will be left with thanksgiving. With confidence we pray…
Weekly Commentary July 1-7, 2018
Last week we reported on the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusals to validate the Western world’s continuing endeavors to suppress Christianity in the name of secularism, and we asked if they were outliers running against the general trend. This week’s report (click here to read in full) has stories from Canada, the UK, and the U.S. that return to the general trend. The worst stories are from Canada, and include a Canadian Supreme Court ruling that basically allows law societies [bar associations] to refuse to recognize the accreditations of Christian law schools, just because they identify as Christian. Since Western nations have largely come to rely on their legal systems to direct and mediate political power, this decision points to the further marginalization and disempowerment of Christians in the coming years, if it is not reversed.
Last week we had an event that highlights one of our reasons for publication, and this week we have had another. As we state on the FAQ page of our web site, a primary goal of our writing is to identify people who are at some risk of martyrdom and so give the reader cause to pray for them before that cup comes to them. Last week we reported on the murder of Mexican Pastor Eduardo ‘Lalo’ Garcia; now this week we report on the murder of Father Firmin Gbagoua in the Central African Republic. Both men have been reported on our pages as faithful servants in dangerous situations for years. Please read our reports and keep all of these witnesses in our global Gethsemane in your prayers, since no one knows when their turn on the Cross may come.
We do have some good news. A priest in Egypt thanked his Muslim neighbors for their help in the reconstruction of his church building, a Christian was released from captivity in Iran, and the U.S. government appeared to be getting serious about pressuring Turkey into releasing Pastor Andrew Brunson.
But most of the news is, of course, negative, with the continuing mass murder in Nigeria at the top of the list.
The government of Belarus – the most repressive in Europe – received the irony prize this week: it has continued to deny the entry of foreign clergy with the excuse that the country’s churches have failed to open enough seminaries, and then it attempted to conscript dozens of seminarians into military service! China attempted to fine another church into bankruptcy. Thailand has not persecuted Christians as such, but its policies have only continued the suffering of Pakistani Christian (and Ahmadiyya Muslim) refugees who have tried to escape persecution. More Muslim persecution of Christians has been reported from Greece and Kyrgyzstan, Hindu-directed persecution in India, and Christian persecution of a Christian in Ethiopia. There are so many to pray for, please keep these people in your prayers this week. Please pray especially for the persecutors.
Hanzhuang Village house church, Zongdian, Qi county, Henan province, China – courtesy China Aid