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 April 16-22, 2017
The one good outcome on this week’s report (click here to read), in a worldly sense, is the freedom of a Pakistani woman from a forced marriage. This woman has been abducted, escaped, abducted again, and then escaped again. Finally she was freed from this marriage – a marriage to which she never agreed – by a court that granted her a formal bill of divorce. This is a highly unusual outcome, and we can thank the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) for their diligence and creativity in resolving this incident. Incidentally, if any reader is looking for a Christian charity to support that has been doing good for suffering Christians, the reader can put the BPCA at the top of their prospective list. It is on ours.
Otherwise our report is the usual ten page compilation of atrocities.
In China a Taiwanese minister was detained for leading a congregation in song on a Saturday. The government there has been stepping up video surveillance of Christians.
The Christian governor of Jakarta in Indonesia has apparently lost his bid for re-election – recall that he was charged with blasphemy just before the campaign began. His concession speech should set a standard for humility. His trial will continue.
Another Christian woman has been abducted in Pakistan.
Some local officials in Vietnam attempted to detain a priest on Easter. His parishioners surrounded him and got shoved around, and the attack stopped after another priest phoned the provincial officials and convinced them to intervene.
A cathedral in Kathmandu, Nepal, was subjected to an arson attack but damage was minor. This cathedral was also the scene of a bombing in 2009 that killed three including a 15 year old female student.
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral, Kathmandu, Nepal – courtesy Wikipedia
At least 12 Catholic Christians were killed in Nigeria at an Easter Vigil Mass. Their bishop publicly blamed the state governor for their deaths, and was backed by local Protestant clergy.
A 35 year old priest died in Venezuela on Holy Saturday from meningitis. How is this martyrdom? He died due to a lack of medicine, and thus in union with his countrymen who also suffer at the hands of a government whose god is a political ideology and not the true God of Scripture. The government did not order his death in hatred of the faith, but they might as well have.
A teenaged boy was brutally murdered in Egypt on Holy Thursday while on his way for tutoring. We also have more news concerning the Palm Sunday church bombings there. One more injured Christian has died, and another has been identified. The newly identified martyr was a church volunteer security guard who can be seen on a security video directing the bomber to the metal detector seconds before the detonation. The following week his place was taken, by his son, who said “I’m continuing what he started. Why worry or be afraid? He has gone to heaven, and I am ready to join him if necessary”. So that too is a story with a good outcome, though not in a worldly sense at all.
Weekly Commentary April 9-15, 2017
Tomorrow April 16, 2017 is the Pascal Celebration. It has many names, including Pascha, Easter, and Resurrection Day, the differences due to language and culture across the world. Christians differ on the setting of the date of celebration, but this year the different calendars aligned and so by happenstance they are united. Christians are also united in their faith that this day is the celebration of their salvation through the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.
This year it is also the day that ends a week which showed how much we need salvation.
Our report this week (click here to read) includes the Palm Sunday suicide bombings of two churches in Egypt by the Islamic State. At least 45 were killed and 126 injured. In the first attack the bomber was able to enter the church in Tanta and self-detonate among the choir of deacons. The second attack happened at the security checkpoint outside the Coptic cathedral in Alexandria, killing 17 including several Muslim police and pedestrians. Pope Tawadros II was officiating in the cathedral, and was so upset that he refused to move to a safer location (as if there was one) and prayed. The brother of one of the murdered deacons later said “I want to say to my martyred brother: ‘I love you so much and I want to be like you’. I also want to say something to ISIL: ‘I’m ready to die for my faith, like my brother. It’s my desire to follow him in this. I’m waiting for you, so don’t delay and please tell me which church you will bomb next so I can wait for you there. I look forward to meet Jesus, so please don’t delay, as I wait for you’”. The apparent fatalism is unnerving, but not the indomitable faith behind it.
Mar Girgis Church, Tanta, Egypt – courtesy Kaled Desouki / AFP / Getty
A Christian was burned to death in a debt dispute in Pakistan. In another incident in that country, a Muslim college student named Mashal Khan was killed in his dormitory by a mob composed of hundreds of his fellow students. Reportedly his ‘crime’ was to have made comments on his Facebook page – which he titled ‘The Humanist’ – that were favorable towards the widely persecuted Ahmadiyya branch of Islam. It should be noted that the perpetrators were extremely proud of their actions: they made a video of the murder and posted it to social media! Christian leaders were quick to condemn the murder, as we report, but it should also be noted that many eloquent statements came from Muslims:
Hamza Arshad, analyst and journalist: “Look at where our society has come to. A mere charge of blasphemy can unleash a fiery volcano that engulfs you, as holy zealots shout slogans. Our society has become a furnace of seething emotions. The way the young man was killed and the traditional indifference of law enforcing agencies was shocking but not surprising because no one tries to save a person once he is charged of blasphemy…No breeze of critical thinking is permissible in this pressure cooker, the mindset we have minted. The only move people are willing to make is towards intolerance…We may be fighting the Taliban and other Jihadis but acts of mob justice in blasphemy cases with clubs, iron bars and guns are like holy cows”.
Muhammad Jibran Nasir, human rights activist: “Let me say it today in clear terms on how we have created a society where students become murderers. Generals who polluted young minds and weaponized religion for violent means and criminal ends [have] decided to remain quiet and let it happen…Politicians…sing the praises of Mumtaz Qadri [the murderer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer]. Mainstream political parties…patronize terror outfits and form electoral alliances with them giving them space to spread their narrative…We did not lose only Mashal Khan but also hundreds of students who became murderers today. We all are responsible”.
Abdul Hameed Gondal, writer: “Nothing will happen. What kind of generation are we educating in universities? These students do not belong to any extremist outfits like TTP or ISIL…The extremist thinking exists in our homes as well”.
Rana Inam, attorney and online newspaper editor: “it is really sad that a religion, which teaches us to sharpen the knife before slaughtering animals so that they feel less pain, can at the same time allow that a human be brutally killed in its name”.
These statements show that many see the need for Godly salvation in their lives, even if their cultural and religious backgrounds inhibit their ability to see how that salvation should come. As Christians we need to remember that we are called to reject indifference and to accept evangelization for the benefit of all, to the ends of the earth. The empty tomb tells us that our salvation is at hand, and that we are to tell the world it is already bought by Jesus Christ. The world is ready to hear the Good News…though not all.
Weekly Commentary April 2-8, 2017
The good news in this week’s report concerns the joint effort of the churches of Iraq to rebuild the country in a true ecumenical movement. We also have the legal victory of a Christian student in Florida in the U.S. after he had been the victim of false accusations by his Muslim college professor, and the release from prison of a Christian in China.
Christians have been reported as killed in the Central African Republic (though without names), Egypt, Mexico (in 2009), and the United States. A church in France suffered an arson attack, and several have been under threat in Indonesia.
Armenian Evangelical Church, Alfortvillem France – courtesy Le Parisien
We also have a number of reports with strange, ominous overtones:
- The situation in Venezuela has continued to worsen, with church leaders standing in opposition to the dissolution of the national legislature and the continuing deprivation of basic necessities. One bishop has begun to coordinate the transfer of refugees to his counterpart in Colombia (imagine, Venezuelans have begun to flee to a country which in recent decades has lost one-fifth of its own citizens to flight abroad!).
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo has continued to see attacks by militias that have grown while the central government has continued to try to remain in power despite constitutional restrictions.
- A bishop in Greece spoke on his country’s demographic suicide.
- Prominent Nigerian Christians were questioned by the government in an apparent attempt to build a criminal case against their media campaign to stop anti-Christian violence. This is an unprecedented attack in that country, at least since the end of the Biafran War.
- The organized crime-driven civil conflict in Mexico appears to be worsening, as if that were possible.
- In Paraguay – the first time that country has appeared on these pages – a bishop was cut off from television for remarks on the constitutional crisis there.
- A Syrian bishop spoke on the latest nerve gas attack there
Several other examples of these strange blends of anarchy and tyranny (or its precedents) can be found in this week’s report – please click here to read. Meditation on these events tells us that we not only need to pray for this world, but we need to be wise so that we be aware of these things, and to find a proper way to respond to each, and so let us pray for wisdom also.
Weekly Commentary March 26 – April 1, 2017
This week’s report is again largely a compendium of abductions, arrests, and assaults, with a few homicides thrown in. A priest was killed in Mexico and another was abducted and thankfully released. A Pakistani sanitation worker was killed in a targeted assassination after having refused to clean an outhouse on a Sunday. A non-Trinitarian Christian was identified as one of the victims of the jihadist attack near Parliament in London. And as is our policy on missionaries and religious pilgrims, we also reported on the deaths of 13 retreatants on a highway in Texas in a vehicular accident caused by texting.
We have two reports on Western style persecution, both of which involve abortion.
Abortion has always been extremely problematic for Christianity, largely due to the Gospel account of Mary meeting her cousin Elizabeth. There are no serious defenses of the subject from Christian scholars which can be cited as supportive of the practice as such (yes, Thomas Aquinas once created an alternate hypothetical, but that is not the same thing). In the early Roman Empire women flocked to join the Church because its position on abortion and contraception allowed them to escape a very real oppression of their time.
Today’s world is very different. The Christian view is under attack. From a pluralistic view this is strange, since pluralism tends to promote tolerance. In this week’s report (click here to read in full) we have two stories which give a real sense of the cause and extent of the attack.
The first comes from Belgium. The Catholic University of Louvain is one of the oldest Christian institutions in the world. A professor of philosophy introduced a critique of abortion in one of his classes for debate, a campus feminist group violently complained, and the professor has now been suspended. Universities throughout the West for decades have promoted critiques of Christianity with few complaints, but here one man stated a position that should be the purpose of the Christian institution he served and that institution turned on him. This is disheartening beyond words.
The second account is from California in the U.S. Two Christian investigative journalists have been indicted by the state’s Attorney General for secretly recording abortion clinic managers negotiating the illegal sale of tissue harvested from aborted children. There are several facets to this story. The state’s legal position is extremely weak. NBC television prevailed in court in a similar case. Animal rights groups did the same with animal abuse at poultry farms, and the state not only did not prosecute them but used their videos to prosecute the farmers, thus introducing evidence of selective prosecution. The conclusion to make of the state’s indictment is that either they know they will lose but are willing to use the process as punishment at the behest of their abortion masters, or else they believe they will overturn precedent and constitutional liberties as they work to further the advancement of abortion as the premier sacrament of their de facto state religion. Either way they are wrong, and corrupt. The one bright spot has been the actions of the two journalists, who have comported themselves with great probity and courage. They are a great example for Christians and others of good will everywhere. Please pray for them and for our future.
Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium – courtesy Wikimedia