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 January 12-18, 2020
Murder is to be found in three countries on this week’s report (please click here to read in full), with Christians killed in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, the last a Belgian missionary in the country since 1965. The family of another Christian minister who was executed in Iran 30 years ago discovered that his gravesite had been bulldozed in an attempt to make him disappear from the earth: too bad the desecrators failed to see his place in eternity with his Father.
An elderly Christian couple in poor health, the last Christians in their village in Turkey, disappeared, apparent victims of abduction by unknown men. Christians were also taken into captivity in Nigeria and Pakistan. A priest arrested in Turkey last week has been released.
The Good Shepherd Major Seminary, Kaduna, Nigeria – courtesy Maria Lozano and Aid to the Church in Need
A church has been ordered to be closed in Algeria. In China the residences of a bishop and several priests were ordered closed, along with a nursing home run by nuns; all were thrown out onto the streets, but some – some – of the elderly residents of the nursing home found shelter with their families. The 61 year old bishop, Vincent Guo Xijin, has been sleeping outdoors in the doorway of his residence. In another story from China a church had been closed in early December with official seals affixed to the doors (the kind that promised prosecution if broken). Over 200 parishioners proceeded to enter their church for worship in the following weeks by climbing in through a window! Imagine such determination and faith! The authorities got even on Christmas day by cutting the electricity to the building during their service.
Oratoire Church, Oran, Algeria – courtesy Morning Star News
There is also a story from Turkey that tells much about the standing of Christianity there. For almost nine years the patriarch of the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople, Mesrob II Mutafyan, had been incapacitated by early onset Alzheimer’s, and the government had refused to allow his church to retire him and elect a successor. Patriarch Mesrob passed away in March 2019, and in December Sahag II Mashalian was elected his successor. This week it was reported that Patriarch Sahag had become the victim of a Turkish media smear campaign: he had given a speech in which he tried to say that Armenians in Turkey would stay in the country despite the genocide of a century ago, but of course he could not say the word ‘genocide’ without incurring legal problems, so he alluded to it by using the word ‘diaspora’ – “We do not need a diaspora”. The media twisted his comment into a condemnation of the Armenians of the diaspora. This is just another example of the need for Christians to become savvy media proponents, and at a deeper level to tell the truth without concern for the cost.
All in all, another typical week for Christians around the globe. Please continue your prayers for them.
Holy Mother of God Patriarchal Church, Istanbul, Turkey – courtesy Vmemkov and Wikipedia
Weekly Commentary January 5-11, 2020
Two pastors in the Central African Republic were reported on this week’s report (click here to read) as having been killed by jihadists while travelling on Christmas (December 25, 2019). A young bride-to-be was killed by jihadists in Nigeria while travelling to her wedding along with her fiancé and friends, and 13 Christians were killed and 3 wounded in another incident there. A priest in Mexico was shot four times and left on a highway after his family paid a ransom for his release from kidnappers – he was hospitalized in stable condition.
Four seminarians were abducted in Nigeria. Christians were arrested in China (including a widowed pastor with minor children), Iran, Thailand (a Pakistani grandmother with health problems), and Turkey.
A church in Texas was subjected to a mass shooting threat during services.
Hundreds of church vandalisms were reported from Italy (mostly creches). Two churches were vandalized in Germany, and a Christian reporter in Berlin saw his automobile firebombed for the second time in six years. All of the German attacks were claimed by feminists. A church in Louisiana was also vandalized. Only a few of these stories included names that we could use in our reporting. Also, the Gatestone Institute in New York issued a very comprehensive report on church vandalism which stated that vandalism is at an all-time high in six Western European countries in 2019 (click here to read).
From China has come a very disquieting story. Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 87 year old bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, released a letter in Rome that he addressed to all of his fellow cardinals (the bishops charged with electing and advising the Pope). Attached to the letter was a dubia, a list of questions he had submitted to Pope Francis concerning the Vatican’s agreement with China on church freedom; in this cover letter he stated that the Vatican agreement “encourages the faithful in China to enter a schismatic church (independent of the pope and under the orders of the Communist Party)”. Zen noted that Pope Francis had not answered his dubia after six months, nor had he – the leading Chinese Catholic prelate – been allowed to see the text of the still-secret agreement. His language regarding the Vatican’s actions toward Chinese Catholics and Pope Francis’ predecessors were scathing: “manipulation”, “disrespectful”, “disgusts me”; the particular object of his ire was not Pope Francis but rather the Vatican’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Cardinal Zen ended his blunt assessment and appeal to his fellow cardinal bishops with “Your Eminence, can we passively witness the murder of the Church in China by those who should protect and defend her from her enemies? On my knees, your brother”.
In recent years, the world has witnessed a growing conflict of bishops against bishops, in many denominations. Battles have erupted over liturgical practice, moral doctrine, financial transparency, national autonomy, and sex abuse cover ups. Now we can add church persecution to the list. In many situations, Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, and most recently Methodist churches are breaking into schism as bishops oppose each other. Catholics are taught to value unity as one of the great charisms of their church, so an official schism remains remote, but only God really knows what will come. All this calls to mind the ancient Chinese curse May you live in interesting times. Are we so cursed? Or, as some have written, are we blessed to live in times where we have been given the opportunity to stand up for the faith, in truth and in charity? Perhaps so. Let us pray for the wisdom and eloquence that these interesting times will require of us.
St Peter Basilica, Vatican City – courtesy Eugene Pivovarov and Wikipedia
Weekly Commentary December 29, 2019 – January 4, 2020
This week’s report (please click here to read in full) has a particularly evil story of the murder of a 14 year old Pakistani boy by two of his factory co-workers. It also tells of the murder of two Christians in their church in Texas by a man described by his sister as having “demons” as a result of childhood neglect. The killer was in turn killed by the church’s security team before he could kill anyone else. Some in the U.S. then published lurid headlines such as “Parishioners kill man” and the like, as if to suggest that Christians fall short of Christ’s teaching when they defend the lives of their friends and families, to defend those they love. These writers get the irony prize this week, since the last U.S. church mass shooting produced published comments such as “If prayers did anything they’d still be alive”; “They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else”. So, Christians are wrong if they respond to violent evil in one way, with self-defense, and wrong when they respond in the opposite way, without it. What does that tell us? Another gem of this story is the number of people who were quick to claim the church was tolerant of violent racists because it was in the municipality of White Settlement (!), overlooking that the deacon killed while serving communion was African American.
This week we have other stories from China, India, Iran, Montenegro (the first ever from that country), Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Ukraine.
Please read over this week’s report and please redouble your prayers. Please pray especially for all those who have been gravely hurt by childhood trauma, pray for their full and complete healing.
St Therese Parish Church, Datu Piang, Maguindanao province, Philippines – courtesy Bong Sarmiento
Holy Protection Church, Novozhivotov village, Oratov district, Vinnitsa region, Ukraine – courtesy zruchno.travel
West Freeway Church of Christ, White Settlement, Texas, USA – courtesy Laura Buckman / New York Times