Would Die for Your Ashes? Cardinal Wuerl Reflects on Modern Christian Martyrs

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston https://www.flickr.com/photos/bostoncatholic/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston https://www.flickr.com/photos/bostoncatholic/

Cardinal Wuerl delivered a powerful homily on the present-day Christian martyrs yesterday.

“We can go out those doors with ashes on our forehead … however … there are parts of the world where that will just as well be a death certificate,” he said.

“There are parts of the world where Christians are regularly martyred. Where their churches are destroyed, their homes burned, their children sold into slavery.

“The first thing we owe our brothers and sisters is a sense of solidarity with them. If they suffer, we should feel that suffering. And we owe them our prayerful support, but we also owe them our voice.

“It has gone on for the longest time, because of the silence. The silence of the world community, the silence of all of us in the face of this extraordinary violence against the Gospel of Jesus Christ”

These are powerful words, but I think we should go a lot further than they ask. We should — at the least — speak often of Christian martyrdom and Christian persecution. We should agitate to allow Christians who are being persecuted to seek asylum in this country. We should gather together in prayer services for persecuted Christians around the world.

We should write about these martyrs. Pray for them. Pray to them. Help the survivors. And get serious with our elected officials who don’t get the message. We are Americans. Our government is us. That means we have immense power to change things, if we will work together, and if we can keep our focus and not lose interest because of the next sensation.

We must not forget our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and dying for His Name. Remembering is the least, the smallest thing, that we can do.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Catholics owe solidarity, prayer and a voice against injustice to their fellow Christians being martyred and persecuted around the world, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., stressed on Ash Wednesday.

“(W)e can go out those doors with ashes on our forehead” as a public display of faith, the cardinal said. However, “(t)here are parts of the world where that will just as well be a death certificate.”

Cardinal Wuerl spoke at the end of his Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the penitential season of Lent which culminates in the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – followed by the celebration of Easter Sunday and the ensuing Easter Season.

On Ash Wednesday, Mass attendees may receive ashes on their forehead in the sign of a cross, to signify penance and the remembrance of human morality.

Focusing on the reality of Christian persecution in many parts of the world. Cardinal Wuerl pointed to Nigeria, India, Syria, Iraq and the Holy Land as particular areas of concern.

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Cardinal Zen Calls for More Support for the Church In China

The Vatican needs to do more to support the true Church in China. That is the message from Cardinal Zen.

His comments are worth considering, not only because of the religious persecution in China, but because of the growing tendency for government to try to control the Church and the faithful in the Western world.

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China Changes One-Child Policy. It’s Two Children Now.

 

It’s a step in the right direction.

China has announced that it will “ease” its draconian one-child policy. Now, the good government will allow families to have two children.

I am glad they are doing this, but governments do not have any business telling families how many children they can have. Period.

If China — or India, for that matter — wanted to “ease” the pressures that lead to aborting, abandoning and murdering baby girls, they might consider measures to change the age-old practices that created this violent discrimination. I am not talking about coercion. Rather, by addressing issues of parity in inheritance, income and opportunity, much of the “reason” for murdering baby girls would go away.

The article below seems to say that ending the brutal murders of baby girls has nothing to do with this policy change, so don’t hold your breath for these kinds of changes. What the article implies is that China is “easing” their policy (but not relaxing their control over people’s private lives) for economic reasons. It seems the economy flourishes with a growing population to buy goods and services.

In the meantime, I am wondering if this new policy means that now the Chinese government will knock down people’s houses and grab pregnant women off the streets to force abort them after the second baby instead of the first.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) - China will ease family planning restrictions nationwide, the government said on Friday, allowing millions of families to have two children in the country’s most significant liberalization of its strict one-child policy in about three decades.

Couples in which one parent is an only child will now be able to have a second child, one of the highlights of a sweeping raft of reforms announced three days after the ruling Communist Party ended a meeting that mapped out policy for the next decade.

The plan to ease the policy was envisioned by the government about five years ago as officials worried that the strict controls were undermining economic growth and contributing to a rapidly ageing population the country had no hope of supporting financially.

A growing number of scholars had long urged the government to reform the policy, introduced in the late 1970s to prevent population growth spiraling out of control, but now regarded by many experts as outdated and harmful to the economy.

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Christianity in China

 

This video talks about Christianity in China. Christianity is growing, despite persecution.

It is interesting that the communists do not make Christianity illegal, they put it under state control. This is similar to the way that our government has begun to try to control Christianity here in America; by reducing the First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion to worship services in houses of worship and the privacy of our own homes.

This is tyranny.

 

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15 Countries Named for ‘Systematic, On-Going’ Abuse of Religious Freedom

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom issued a recent report that named 15 Countries of Particular Concern because of the threats that their governments pose to religious liberty.

These countries are: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Viet Nam. The governments in these countries have “either engaged in or tolerated systematic, on-going, egregious abuse of the right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Based on the stories I’ve seen since I’ve been writing about Christian persecution, I would guess that the most consistently persecuted group in these countries is Christians.

From CNA:

Washington D.C., May 4, 2013 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- A recent report on international religious liberty cautioned that severe threats to freedom of religion exist in diverse communities through the world and should be discouraged through actions by the U.S. government.

“The Annual Report ultimately is about people and how their governments treat them,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the commission that released the report.

“Religious freedom is both a pivotal human right under international law and a key factor that helps determine whether a nation experiences stability or chaos,” she explained.

The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom gathers information throughout the year by meeting with government officials, citizens, analysts and non-governmental organizations across the globe in order to assess the state of international religious liberty. The independent, bipartisan group then advises the president, U.S. Congress and State Department on recommended actions to be taken.

Issued each year, the commission’s report marks “countries of particular concern” (CPCs), which are defined as “countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.” The State Department has the opportunity to officially label CPCs and decide whether to impose sanctions or other penalties on each country.

The 2013 document recommended 15 countries to be designated as CPCs: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. (Read the rest here.)

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Christian Persecution and the Terminology of Death

Years ago, I had a conversation with a nice woman who held a responsible position in the Episcopalian (or Anglican, as it is called in most countries) missions agency. She kindly agreed to introduce me to several African Anglican bishops. In the course of our conversation, she told me that none of the Christians in the countries where these bishops presided were suffering “pure” persecution, since what they were going through did not come by direct government order.  Her contention was that “persecution” could only happen if a government ordered it.

She introduced me to a number of bishops, despite the fact that I did not agree with her on this. They gave me an entirely different story. They had no doubt that what they and their people were undergoing was persecution, many times to the death, for their Christian faith.

One bishop from Northern Nigeria told me that five of his churches had been burned to the ground, that his daughter had been seized, and that a member of one of his parishes was murdered by a mob that put the man over a sawhorse and cut off his head. I can still hear the pain and horror in his voice as he described this to me.

Yet, by the definition I had heard none of this would qualify as persecution.

I had an interesting conversation earlier today with a sophisticated and knowledgeable Catholic who holds the same view. If I understood him correctly, the only persecution that can be officially accepted as such is that which comes as an official action by an official government of the type that occurs in North Korea, Saudi Arabia and China.

I’ve been chewing on this all afternoon. I understand — or at least I think I do — the difference between government-enforced persecution and that which comes from groups of people in a society. There are few things more draconian that government-enforced persecution. However, to label everything that is not government-enforced as “not persecution” just doesn’t jibe with me; not if the horror stories I’ve read and been told are true. 

I’ve spent a fair lifetime in the world of political jargoneering, and I have an admittedly cynical view of it. When people parse the meanings of words to avoid the obvious fact that other people are being murdered, it triggers enormous emotional and mental resistance in me.

I tried to find the United Nations definition of persecution by looking online, and all I found were definitions related to refugees. I’ll quote the salient parts as I discuss them.

The first definition, which is a definition of persecution itself, says:

51. … From Article 33 of the 1951 Convention, it may be inferred that a threat to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group is always persecution. Other serious violations of human rights – for the same reasons – would also constitute persecution. (Emphasis mine.)

I’m not versed in International law, but taken on its face, that seems to say that what the bishop from Nigeria described to me, as well as most of the other things I’ve heard and read, fit this definition of persecution.

The second part of the definition goes to what both the two people who think persecution only occurs at the behest of a government are probably referring to:

65. Persecution is normally related to action by the authorities of a country. 

However, the same definition goes on to say:

It may also emanate from sections of the population that do not respect the standards established by the laws of the country concerned. A case in point may be religious intolerance, amounting to persecution, in a country otherwise secular, but where sizeable fractions of the population do not respect the religious beliefs of their neighbours. Where serious discriminatory or other offensive acts are committed by the local populace, they can be considered as persecution if they are knowingly tolerated by the authorities, or if the authorities refuse, or prove unable, to offer effective protection.

The violent persecution I’ve described on this blog and heard about in my discussions with people from these countries seems to fit this definition to me.

All this came from a Google search. I may have the wrong definitions. However, it does show that at least part of the United Nations definitions of persecution include situations such as those I have been writing about.

The reason I’m going over this is because I believe that people are being murdered, imprisoned and otherwise mistreated in large parts of the world today because they are Christians. If I am wrong about this, I want to know it.

If, on the other hand, I am right, I intend to persist in calling it out so long as it continues and I am able to say anything about it.

I am trying to understand how we can work around the intractability of legal definitions which narrow the meaning of persecution to the point that it allows things like these and does not call them by name.

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Is China Planning to Change the One-Child Policy?


An intriguing article in the Shanghaiist speculates that perhaps China is considering revising their one-child policy.

This article is based on recommendations that came from The China Development Foundation, which is a government think tank. The recommendations include going to a two-child policy in some provinces this year and moving toward a national two-child policy by 2015.

Whether or not these recommendations will be enacted, it sounds as if they will still leave the decision of how many children a couple may have in the government’s hands. Up until now, this had led to government mandated forced abortions and other atrocities against women.

The Shanghaiist article says in part:

The China Development Research Foundation, a government think tank, has called for the immediate phasing-out of the one-child policy and for all Chinese families to be allowed two children by 2015.

Xie Meng, a press affairs official with the foundation, said the final version of the report wil be released “in a week or two.” But Chinese state media have been given advance copies. The official Xinhua News Agency said the foundation recommends a two-child policy in some provinces from this year and a nationwide two-child policy by 2015. It proposes all birth limits be dropped by 2020, Xinhua reported.”China has paid a huge political and social cost for the policy, as it has resulted in social conflict, high administrative costs and led indirectly to a long-term gender imbalance at birth,” Xinhua said, citing the report. (Read more here.)

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