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 June 2-8, 2019
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God…Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. – Matthew 5: 3,5-6,8,10-11
There is one story of justice and righteousness in this week’s report (please click here to read in full). A pastor and his wife in India were arrested in January 2016 along with some of their parishioners on false forced conversion charges. It has been announced that the Madhya Pradesh state high court last month overturned their convictions. But even here, this is not a ‘good’ story: it has now come to light that during the 2016 arrest police took their six year old son into custody and stripped and beat him. He has largely recovered but still words fail to describe this kind of depravity.
This week we report on murders in Kenya, Nigeria, and the United States; on abductions in the Congo, Egypt and Pakistan (most abductions likely included rapes); on arrests in Canada, China and Tajikistan; and on attacks against churches or the homes of Christians in India, Israel, Mexico, Uganda, and the United States.
Church in Jiba, Democratic Republic of the Congo – courtesy Fides
Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Tallahassee, Florida, USA – courtesy Michael Rivera and Wikipedia
We also have ‘deep background’ stories from the Central African Republic and China.
The Canadian arrest is notable. It involved a street preacher who has had several unjustified brushes with police or other local agencies. He went into a heavily pro-LGBTQ neighborhood in Toronto and began to preach on a sidewalk. His actions were not entirely blameless: on the video he initially tried to engage with people who had turned their backs on him, and when he got no answer he twice said “OK, a bigot”. Otherwise he said nothing objectionable from a Christian viewpoint, to the point of emphasizing the ubiquity of sin in everyone’s lives. Then a crowd assembled with a rainbow flag and began to physically menace him by using their bodies to push him against walls. Yet in the end he was the one arrested.
The comments on the Charismatic site that reported this news were interesting. Most were posted by the usual clever trolls who have driven more orthodox Christian commenters from the site. They were quite critical of the preacher, with some reason, but stated he deserved arrest and they gave no criticisms of the crowd. We can be sure that these same trolls would have been quite critical of a Christian crowd that had quietly menaced a homosexual advocate.
And that brings us to another story. June is Pride Month (although a cynic might ask, aren’t they all?). On June 1st the Catholic bishop of Rhode Island tweeted that his fellow Catholics, especially children, should not attend Pride events. He was promptly savaged in the media. The next day he issued a letter on his diocesan web site that was an interesting but ultimately futile blend of defense and conciliation. The media – including major regional newspapers – ignored his defense of his role as a teaching minister of his church and falsely claimed his effort to conciliate was a retraction.
A survey of Scripture shows that ‘the proud’ receive universal condemnation, and ‘pride’ is almost always seen as a spiritual danger. Only in Paul’s Epistles do we see pride mentioned in a positive way, as applied when fidelity to Christian life and evangelization can be seen. In a way, it’s not fair to single out the homosexual movement for this criticism because there are so many worldly movements in opposition to Christ’s message of salvation. Is there any such opposition that is not prideful?
Blessed are the pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The definitions of ‘righteousness’ and ‘pure of heart’ are undergoing forced change in our society, but we all understand the Christian meaning of the phrases. Blessed are the poor in spirit and the meek; that at least cannot be changed to match a prideful world. Here is what should tip the scales of our understanding: Blessed are you when people falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. When those opposed to the fullness of the Christian message must lie in the media or to police to suppress it and advance their cause, they only prove the prophetic truth of the Beatitudes.
Weekly Commentary May 26 – June 1, 2019
This has not been a good week.
- Christians identified by name were reported killed in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, El Salvador, India, Mozambique, and Pakistan. Christians not identified by name were reported by their families and clergy to have been killed in Mexico and (in another update to the Easter Sunday church bombings) Sri Lanka.
- Three Christian families in India were driven from their homes by their neighbors
- A pastor in India was arrested and released with more police threats
- Church leaders in Venezuela have again reported on the economic crisis that has been caused by continued enslavement to an ideological fantasy, a fantasy that could turn on them at any time for their descriptions of malnutrition and family abandonment
- A Colombian asylum seeker and seminarian was deported from the United States because she could not supply documentation of the death threats she had received from guerrillas – the guerrillas did not oblige, and the Colombian police were not up to the task of asking the guerrillas if it was true
- A highly respected pastor with a degree in biology has resigned from the Church of England after his bishop refused to support his opposition to the bullying tactics a transgender pressure group used against the parochial elementary school he supervised
- Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin is now nearing the end of his seventh year under house arrest in Shanghai (click here to read our biography of him)
Please read this week’s report (click here to read). Please remember that we are all needed in the struggle against evil – to make an effort to recognize it, and to pray against it, since there is often little else that can be done.
Church in Toulfe, Burkina Faso – courtesy Fides
All Saints Church, Fordham village, Essex, United Kingdom – courtesy Andrew Hill and Wikipedia
National Shrine of Sheshan, Shanghai, China – courtesy Cina
Announcement June 1, 2019
Movie Review – The Field Afar
A recent film festival in New Haven, Connecticut offered an evening of Christian films. One, The Field Afar: The Life of Fr. Vincent R. Capodanno, caught our attention. The bare facts of his 1967 martyrdom were added to this web site a few years ago (click here to read), but until now we have not had the opportunity to comment further on his life and death – we could have had we known of the Catholic media house EWTN’s 2017 production of Called and Chosen: Father Vincent R. Capodanno, but we didn’t know of that film until hearing the favorable comments about it during the festival from the directors of The Field Afar, who said it took a good but very different approach to his life than their film did.
We were very impressed with The Field Afar and committed ourselves to write a review of it. Please click here to read it as a web page, or here as a downloaded and printable PDF document. The review is not only a tribute to a priest-martyr and to the film about him, but also a meditation on the difference that the intervening 50 years have made in our society, and possibly on the strengths and weaknesses of the Church in our day.
We can only pray that the directors of The Field Afar will have more opportunities to make films that can impress us with exposition of the great themes of Christian life.
Weekly Commentary May 19-25, 2019
We have a disappointing story from Sri Lanka on our report for this week, a story that has not had full coverage in the media.
St. Sebastian Church bombing, April 21, 2019, Negombo, Sri Lanka – courtesy AsiaNews
A Sri Lankan pastor, Anton Kyanq, has reported on the Pakistani asylum seekers who have been driven from their homes during rioting in the aftermath of the 2019 Easter Sunday church bombings. The secular media, especially the BBC, has reported on the destruction of mosques and Muslim businesses and the killing of at least one Muslim during the rioting. What has not been reported is that the rioters also have targeted Pakistani Christian refugees.
Here is an account published on April 26, 2019, by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA):
My family and I were attacked in Dalupothoa when my home was broken into and rioters came in and vandalized the property I rented while we were forced to watch – they began to beat us. We were told the violence enacted upon us was in retaliation for the series of recent bomb attacks. I begged them to stop beating us and explained that we were innocent and that there were children in my home. The men said “Our Christian children have been killed why should we save yours?” The men beating [sic] us until other Sri Lankan local residents came to my rescue and explained I was a Christian – even then the gang wanted me out of the area as they said I was a Pakistani first and then Christian.
This account contained no attribution (except to the BPCA publisher, Wilson Chowdhry), and so we reluctantly decided at the time to pass on reporting on this important story. Now Pastor Kyanq’s report to the BPCA has allowed us to bring this story to your attention in the manner we would prefer.
This is so sad. The BPCA story of April 26th makes it clear that prior to the Easter bombing St. Sebastian Church in Negombo was highly supportive of the Pakistani refugees. Now members of that church have lashed out against innocent Muslims (including Ahmaddiya Muslims who fled persecution in Pakistan) and the very same Christians they once supported. The reports from the BBC and other media have omitted the Christian dimensions to this story, and so on one hand they failed to disclose this lapse in Christian teaching on forgiveness, and on the other hand they failed to expose very painful motives of hysteria and xenophobia that went beyond anti-Muslim prejudices. The BPCA reports thankfully give us a more complete perspective.
Of course, there is another factor to the riots that has gone unmentioned: the church members who were most supportive of the Pakistani refugees may have been among the more than 80 killed in the Negombo church bombing. The murderers may thus have also robbed the refugees of their greatest support.
Wilson Chowdhry does appear in this week’s report (click here to read in full) in another story: he was a signatory of an open letter which opposed a policy that would impose a de facto sharia blasphemy law in Britain. Other Christians who have appeared on past Today’s Martyrs publications also signed, but they were all vastly outnumbered by British Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, and others – a very telling fact about the present state of British Christianity.
Other reports this week concern two Pakistani families who were attacked after the local mosque broadcast false blasphemy accusations against one of them over the mosque loudspeakers, a follow-up story on a Chinese Christian refugee in the Netherlands, several stories from China, and the conversion by trickery of a 13 year old Christian to Islam on Turkish television.
So please read our report and please pray for all concerned. Also, two of the signatories to the open letter, Wilson Chowdhry and Bishop Gavin Ashenden, have made recent financial appeals on their web sites in support of their ministries. Britain can be considered the locus of current anti-Christian sentiments in the West, and therefore it is a place where the good fight can best be fought.
Weekly Commentary May 12-18, 2019
This week a Christian in India by the name of Gornath Chalanseth has been ordered released on bail. What is noteworthy is that he has sat in prison since August 2008, after he and six others were falsely accused of the murder of a prominent Hindu nationalist cleric. This decision by the Supreme Court may be a sign that the inherent injustice of this chapter of recent Indian persecution may be resolved soon. Pray that all seven of these men will be reunited with their families.
Otherwise, the news in this week’s report (click here to read in full) lists murders of Christians in Burkina Faso, Egypt [in this case a priest killed allegedly by another priest], and the United States. Also, an attempted murder was reported from Niger, cemetery vandalism in Pakistan, political conflict in Nicaragua, and the firing of top-ranked Australian professional rugby player Israel Folau after he expressed traditional Christian views on morality. This last event has raised the question, if an attractive celebrity sports figure is not safe from anti-Christian scolds, then is anyone?
Not a long report, but some stories have certainly been long in the making. Please let us in turn lengthen and strengthen our prayers for the persecuted everywhere.
Weekly Commentary May 5-11, 2019
Finally, finally, the Asia Bibi saga is over! Thank God! She has left Pakistan 10 years after her arrest on blasphemy charges and has been reunited in Canada with her family. We would like to say she is safe, but apparently the Canadian authorities have not agreed: they are giving her and her family new names, seemingly out of fear that Canadian jihadists might continue the search for her.
We also have further good news on our report this week. A Christian at risk of deportation back to China has been freed from detention in the Netherlands. We also have a story concerning increased church security in Bangladesh.
The rest of the report is, of course, not as good. Christians have been killed once more in Nigeria, and more details of the Easter church bombings in Sri Lanka continue to drip out, including the very sad story of a young convert and mother who was disowned by her family after her hospitalization revealed her church attendance. An historic church in India was the scene of an arson attack on Easter morning, but fortunately the structure was not damaged. A priest in India has been convicted on false charges of conspiring with separatist tribal men to allow them to commit gang rape. Churches in Sweden belonging to Christians who fled the Middle East have been destroyed by arson, though only one has a named Christian in the story. A Christian refugee in Switzerland has been threatened by Iranian intelligence.
Please continue your vigils in prayer for these needs and the others as yet unknown to us.
Holy Saviour Church, Arrah, Bihar state, India – courtesy Morning Star News
Weekly Commentary April 28 – May 4, 2019
This is going to be a difficult commentary, because it is a call to see things as they are.
This past Easter Sunday saw the horrific bombings of three churches and other targets in Sri Lanka. Yes, horrific, even in the sense that the death toll was overstated by almost 100 due to the inability to match up remains without DNA testing. There is another sense in which this was horrific: in at least two churches, the bombers deliberately targeted the children.
Several hours after the Sri Lankan attacks, another incident happened in Nigeria, which has not been widely reported. A Nigerian church in the middle belt state of Gombe hosted an Easter procession. A vehicle with two off-duty Muslim policemen attempted to drive across the procession. Reports differ as to whether the vehicle actually crossed or not, but all agree that the vehicle performed a U-turn, accelerated, and ran over dozens of children processing in their Boys and Girls Brigades uniforms. Eight were killed and up to 31 hospitalized.
There is a word that describes the systematic killing of children: genocide.
Christians in the developed world have generally shied away from this charge. The common Western view of genocide closely links genocide with ethnicity, despite the original legal definition. The idea that Christians and in particular Christian children are being targeted with genocidal intent has been resisted for years, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary from attacks in Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sudan.
We have other stories in this week’s report (please click here to read in full) in the same mode:
- In India a Hindu politician has called for the forced sterilization of Christians and Muslims. The prevention of the birth of a group’s children is as genocidal as their destruction (recall that the 1942 Nazi Wannsee Conference confirmed the use of gas chambers for the fate of European Jewry after dismissing the use of mass X-ray exposure for forced sterilization – the means differed but the intent was the same).
- In China the government has begun to enforce new regulations to prevent Christians and others from educating their own children in their faith. Is this genocide? No, not physically, but in a cultural sense it certainly is, in fact the legal definitions clearly say so.
There is another very disquieting part of the Nigerian story: the Christians in that church procession pulled the two Muslim police officers from their vehicle and killed them. Just imagine: you get out of bed on Easter morning with the intent of praising God for the gift of eternal life, and before the end of the day you have killed someone. From a Christian perspective this is horrible, no matter how understandable the passions of the moment happen to be.
Furthermore, it appears there has been no real condemnations of this killing of the Muslim policemen by church leaders, and no calls for the rule of law to prevail. Perhaps there yet will be. But it may be that a line has been crossed from which Nigeria will not return. Christians there may be deciding that there is no hope that law will protect them or their children. There is a word that describes the absence of law: war. There are few reasons in the Christian tradition that justify war, but defense against genocide is certainly one of them. The killing of Nigerian Christians of all ages for years now have had the characteristics of a one-sided civil war; it is possible it will not remain one-sided for much longer.
So as usual, we have much to pray for in this week’s report and elsewhere in the world. Pray even for the people of the West, that they not persist in their blindness to these evils.
Weekly Commentary April 21-27, 2019
This week’s news (click here to read) is heavily slanted by multiple attacks on Christians as they prayed in their churches. In Sri Lanka an Islamic group allied with the Islamic State (ISIL) killed 253 people during a coordinated wave of suicide bombings at several locations, including more than 178 at three churches on Easter morning. In one particularly moving account, children in a Sunday School class were asked if they would die for Jesus and all raised their hands; minutes later half would be killed and several hospitalized in critical condition.
These Sri Lankan Christians were murdered for no other reason than their faith.
- They were not part of any Great Power struggle.
- They were not connected to any past conflict with Muslims. In fact, two Muslim children died in these churches, their presence a demonstration of lingering Muslim moderation in Sri Lanka.
- They were not escapees from past Muslim domination.
- They were not, for the most part, apostates from Islam.
The motive here was pure hatred for Christians. There is nothing historical or political or economic with which to adulterate it. The word Christophobia, or fear of Christianity, which some like to bandy about in our careless use of language, seems totally untrue. Few truly fear Christianity. So we must conclude that the motive was Christomisos: hatred of Christianity.
The Sri Lankan government shut down social media in the aftermath, and so we have been unable to secure the names of most of the victims by the end of the week. We have been forced to limit our reporting to eyewitness accounts. One man commented on the decline of Muslim tolerance and moderation in the last few years.
In other stories, which were eclipsed by the Sri Lankan news:
A church undergoing renovations in Egypt was attacked by a mob. Two priests and a parishioner were beaten, and school children were terrorized.
A church in Germany was attacked just hours before the Sri Lankan attacks by a single Muslim who threw stones into the congregation while yelling ‘Allahu akbar’. He started a stampede in which two dozen were injured.
A church in India was attacked by a mob led by the family of a longtime convert who was celebrating the two-month anniversary of his secret marriage to a Christian woman. The bride and her family were charged with forcibly converting the groom, even though his conversion was years earlier.
A church in Nigeria was attacked after a baby dedication ceremony. Seventeen were killed, including the baby’s mother.
When we read these accounts and those of the other mindless assaults on this week’s report, we cannot help but think of how such events have become so common. We want to ask, as the martyrs in Scripture ask: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?”, and we see that Scripture answers not with how we see things, but with God’s sight: “Then each of them was given a white robe and told to rest a little while longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed, just as they had been killed”.
What to God is a little while longer? And what is to be the full number?
St Anthony Shrine, Kochchikade, Colombo, Sri Lanka – courtesy myjournalcourier.com
St. Sebastian Church, Katuwapitiya village, Negombo, Sri Lanka – courtesy Melani Manel Perera AsiaNews
St. Sebastian Church, Katuwapitiya village, Negombo, Sri Lanka – Chamila Karunarathne Anadolu Agency Getty
Zion Church, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka – courtesy Gankaalan Twitter
Weekly Commentary April 14-20, 2019
Before we begin, please allow us to thank you for your forbearance. For the last six weeks or so we have been struggling against malware that had infested our web site. We lost the first battle, and so we had to contract with a firm to audit and resolve the problem. After almost two days – during which time we could perform no updates – we received a 23 page report listing all of the malware that had been removed. We now have a security package in place that allows us to see attempted intrusions in real time: we can now see a human directed (not a robot) attack occurs about every 4 minutes on average, from all around the globe. It’s rather fascinating to watch. Rest assured that our site is safe to visit, and we will be working hard to keep it safe.
There are only two minor ‘good’ stories in our report this week (please click here to read in full).
In the first, an underground bishop in China had been told by his local government that he could not engage in public ministry, even at the side of the government-appointed bishop, unless he joined the official church. Right before Holy Thursday the government reversed itself, apparently under pressure from the central government in Beijing. This in turn was likely in response to Vatican appeals to honor the recent [still secret] concordant between the two parties.
In the second, an Indian citizen prevailed in a lawsuit against the government of four of the former Portuguese colonies. That government, which is directly appointed by the national government, had without cause removed Good Friday as a full legal holiday. That decision has now been overturned.
But as we noted, these victories are very minor.
A Christian was killed in India by the Gau Rakshas, the so-called ‘cow vigilantes’, the first to die at their hands – all of their murder victims until now have been Muslims.
The 16 year old daughter of an imprisoned Vietnamese Christian has contracted cancer; their government has been impeding the financial aid sent for her treatment.
The rest of this week’s report covers abductions, arrests, beatings, a church closure, church vandalism, a hostile court decision regulating conversions, and a theft of church assets by police.
Please pray for the sick, the captive, the suffering, and the tortured. Thank you.
Announcement April 19, 2019
Meditation – I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning from the Sky
We have a new meditation available, please click here to read (or click here to download in a PDF format). Based on the writing of the philosopher Rene Girard, it seems appropriate to publish in this Paschal time, and also for its reflections on the Great Commission granted by Christ Jesus to his followers from the Apostles to the present day.
With thanks to Rod Dreher for inspiring the structure of this meditation, and for a couple of borrowed sentences.
Weekly Commentary April 7-13, 2019
There is one excellent story on this week’s report (please click here to read in full). A cathedral in Karachi, Pakistan which opened in 1881 is in need of major repairs to its historic German-made stained-glass windows. These windows have been damaged by years of heat and by two terror bombings decades ago. Cardinal Joseph Coutts (who has previously been seen on these pages as an observer of events) has announced that an Irish-themed fundraiser has been organized by Christian and Muslim entertainers, many from the Lollywood film industry. Please say prayers for the successful and safe outcome of this event, since this is the kind of event that the Pakistan Taliban and other terror groups would be happy to target.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Karachi, Pakistan – courtesy Swerveut and Wikipedia
One excellent story. Most of the others on our report are not:
A Christian convert and mother of four in England was murdered by her estranged husband, in part for her conversion.
Perhaps the second ugliest story was that of an RSS paramilitary attack on a parochial girls’ secondary school in India following the suicide of one student allegedly over low grades. The nuns running the school were hospitalized after the mob attempted to strip them and to strangle them with their rosaries! In a related side story, Dr. John Dayal (a major source of news for Today’s Martyrs) has been sued for defaming the RSS because he reminded viewers on Indian television of the paramilitary organization’s obfuscated involvement in the 1948 assassination of Mohandas Gandhi.
Christians were arrested, imprisoned, abducted, or disappeared in China, Laos, and Pakistan.
Christian worship was interrupted, sometimes with violence, in China, India, Russia, and Sri Lanka.
An Indonesian Christian was forced to leave his home due to his faith.
Christian places of worship were destroyed in China, India, and the United States.
The last story concerns an essay by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in which he wrote “Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence. The fact that martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the [relativistic] theory advocated by [German theologian Franz] Bockle and many others shows that the very essence of Christianity is at stake here”. This is quite a statement, because it denies the bias we share toward a quiet cost-free life. Truly, the full Christian life is very costly, even for the rich and comfortable in peaceful times. Benedict’s comment reminds us of how the world is changing before our eyes, and how the “very essence” of the Faith is now subject to mitigation, dilution, and selective denial in ways unimaginable before now. Pray we keep our eyes open, and our faith strong, because everything is at stake here.
Qianyang church, Shaanxi province, China
Shrine of Mujiaping, Shaanxi province, China
Greater Union Baptist Church, Opelousas, Louisiana, USA
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Opelousas, Louisiana, USA
Weekly Commentary March 31 – April 6, 2019
All news this week is Nigerian.
We have in our report this week (click here to read in full) accounts of more mass murder against the Christians of that country. Again, we have not only brutality but also indifference toward suffering by those who hold power. Please read it, please pray, and please contemplate how any of us would try to live life under such conditions, if we had few other choices.