Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 6

Michael archangel

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is day 6 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Today, let’s meditate on the soldiers who carried out the orders to crucify Our Lord.

Corrupt priests used their influence with the Roman governor of Judea to push him into consenting to the crucifixion of Jesus. This roman governor, whose name was Pontius Pilate, tried to avoid committing this murder, but in the end, he yielded to the pressure from the priests and ordered it.

Who carried out the order?

Roman soldiers.

Roman soldiers scourged Jesus until He was so weakened, probably from loss of blood, that He fell repeatedly on His way to Golgotha. Roman soldiers put a purple robe around his shoulders and a crown of thorns on His head and beat Him and mocked Him. Roman soldiers impressed Simon of Cyrene into forced service to help Jesus carry His cross.

They drove the nails, pulled the cross upright and cast lots for His robe. It was a Roman soldier who thrust his lance into Jesus’ side after His death and was drenched in the blood and water that flowed from it.

What of these men who were just following orders? How, other than as pawns on the stage of history, do they play in this drama?

These were hard men; harder than we can comprehend. First century warfare was man to man; hand to hand. Roman might was based on an infantry formation called the Roman Phalanx. This phalanx required steel nerves and total dependence on the man next to you to hold his place.

Roman soldiers fought as units who depended on one another for their lives. They also, as the Roman peacekeepers in this dusty outpost of Judea, were charged with the bloody business of putting down uprisings among the civilian population. When Pilate ordered the death of worshipers in the Temple, “mingling their blood with their sacrifices,” it was Roman soldiers who did the killing.

They were probably sick of the Jews and their uprisings and God-talk.

The Passover season was almost certainly a dreaded, disgusting time for them, with its crowds, high tensions and boring religious practices. When these men thought of “religion” they associated it with temple prostitutes and wild high drama. Fun stuff.

These religion-besotted Jews with their shalt nots and insistence on taking a day off every week didn’t even follow an entertaining God.

Roman soldiers, as soldiers everywhere, were probably early risers. But the ruckus these hoity-toity Jewish priests raised about the nondescript miracle worker from Nazareth not only disrupted their morning, it most likely got them out of bed early. It cheated them of the slower convivial start to their day.

Instead of enjoying their breakfast with their friends, they had to scourge this Jew.

They were good with the flagellum and whip. They’d scourged lots of people. It took strength, physical endurance and skill to wield the flagellum so that its metal ends dug through the skin and into the muscle below without actually tearing into the vital organs beneath.

Scourging a man almost to death in this fashion was hard, physical labor. This Jesus was to them just an unnecessary piece of work that was forced on them by these impossible people and their insulting religious demands.

Their cruelty with the crown of thorns almost certainly had nothing to do with Jesus directly. He was just a job of work to them. But they were angry. They almost scourged Jesus to death in their anger. Then, they tortured Him with their mockery and cruelty. 

Jesus was not a person to them. He was an addition to their workload and a disgusting annoyance. Truth be told, the devil-driven rage they vented with the whip and later with the crown of thorns was probably aimed more at the priests and the whole Jewish people than at Jesus.

They faced a hard, disgusting task that day. They had to execute two criminals by crucifixion. When Pilate added Jesus’ name to the list, that only increased their workload again. The other two men they were charged with executing were strong enough to carry their crosses. But the soldiers found that they had overdone the beating they gave Jesus.

He had lost so much blood that He couldn’t carry the cross. He fell repeatedly, until finally they had to force an onlooker to help him.

These Roman soldiers were hard men. Callous and cruel men. But they evidently weren’t spiritually dead men, at least not all of them.

Two people converted on that hill that day.

The first was one of the thieves. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom, he asked Our Lord. His reward for this simple act of faith was what we all long to hear; Today you will be with me in paradise. 

The second convert was one of the hardened Roman soldiers.

What was it that caused this soldier to exclaim, Truly, this man is the Son of God? 

How did he hear the Holy Spirit, speaking to him? God’s own Levitical priests and the Roman Governor would not hear this Spirit of God, even when, in the governor’s case, he was warned explicitly.

Why was this hardened soldier who had helped drive the nails the one who listened to that small, still voice?

How many of the soldiers and thugs who go out to torture, attack, rape, kidnap and murder Christians in the world today are turning their backs on the call of the Holy Spirit while they do it?

This Roman soldier was not a thug. He was part of a disciplined military unit of professional soldiers who depended on one another for their lives. But he stepped away from the groupthink of that unit and saw Jesus for Who He was. This same soldier had participated in the torture, degradation and ultimately, the murder of Jesus.

Yet the Holy Spirit gave him eyes to look past the blood and gore and into truth of Who he was dealing with.

He knew.

Those who attack Christians and murder them also know. The things they do are condemned first by the natural law that informs all of us that torture, rape, kidnapping and murder of innocence is wrong. There is no ameliorating explanation that can alter the wrongness of these things. There is no reason or excuse or idea that can ever make them right.

Those who attack Christians because they are Christians are also condemned by the voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking inside their consciences, telling them to stop.

It is a simple fact, and an ugly one, that the corrupt priests and cowardly politicians who demand these atrocities send other people to commit them.

Every hand that throws a rock or lights a fuse or lifts a gun against Christians is the hand of the Roman soldiers wielding the whips and driving the nails all over again. Persecuted Christians are Christ crucified, right in front of us. Those who carry out the persecution with their own hands are His executioners.

We need to pray for these executioners of the Body of Christ. Pray that they will put down their weapons and turn away from this blood sin they are committing against the Son of God. Pray that they will tell the corrupt priests and cowardly politicians to go to hell alone.

 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 6. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 5
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Christian Persecution: Six Quick Takes

Easter isn’t all new clothes, gorgeous masses in stunning church buildings and arguments about red shoes and foot washing. 

In some places, Calvary is present in the lives of the people. The Church itself and all its Christian people hang on the cross of persecution.

In other places, such as the United States and Great Britain, society is moving along the continuum toward violent persecution. Christians in those two countries have come to expect and accept that they will be subjected to hate speech against Christians, Christian-bashing on web sites. They are increasingly being forced to accept that they face growing legal discrimination against Christians and moves to force Christian speech and expression out of the public sphere. We are at the “you can go to church all you want, but leave it there,” phase of discrimination, and this discrimination is rapidly becoming government-enforced.

At the same time, Christians in Egypt fear being kidnapped with no police support to stop it. Christians in Bangladesh have their children stolen and trafficked and again, the police do not punish the traffickers. Christians in North Korea are imprisoned and worked to death. Christians in Nigeria are murdered, tortured and their churches are burned.

I could go on. But there is too much of it for one post.

Here is this week’s roundup of Christian persecution in Six Quick Takes.

 

Christian church destroyed nigeria

1. Nigeria: Easter Attacks Kill 80, Thousands of Christians Flee to the Hills 

By BosNewsLife Africa Service – “Nigerian Christians appealed for prayers Tuesday, April 2, after Easter season violence in troubled central Nigeria left as many as 80 people dead and displaced some 4,500 others.

At least 19 people were killed since Easter Sunday when gunmen believed to be nomadic Muslim cattle herders attacked the mostly Christian Atakar group in Kaura district, a remote area of Kaduna state, officials said.

Witnesses said the attacks on three communities, including the Mafang and Zilang villages, killed many women and children. Kaduna police spokesman Aminu Lawan told reporters his forces were still investigating.

Ataka Christians live near Plateau state where authorities claimed fighting between cattle herders, who are mainly Fulani Muslims, and Christian villages killed nearly 60 people in recent days.

The area is on the uneasy dividing line between Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and largely Christian south…

Christians said that following Sunday’s violence, thousands of villagers fled to the nearby hills. (Read more here.)


Trafficked children bangladesh

2. Bangladesh: Christian Children Re-Captured By Trafficker

Eleven of the 16 Christian children who were rescued from Muslim traffickers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Jan. 2 have again gone missing. Sources in the Christian community, as well as reports in local newspapers, report that they believe the children were re-trafficked and taken to madrassas, Islamic training centers, where they will likely be forced to convert to Islam and study the Quran.

Eleven Christian children, originally from the Rangamati district of Chittagong Hill Tracts, disappeared for the second time earlier this year after being given back to the custody of their parents. “We were not aware that our child would be taken to a madrassa,” one parent told International Christian Concern (ICC).

The children, along with five others, had been rescued by police from a madrassa in the Abuzor Giffari Mosque Complex in Dhaka. The children had been missing for months. They were returned to their parents soon after their rescue, but traffickers continually threatened the parents until the recent re-disappearance of the children. Local authorities say the children were likely trafficked again to madrassas and are concerned that they will be forcibly converted to Islam.

“The [leader] of the traffickers gives a large sum of money to the traffickers to take the kids to the madrassa,” said an ICC source. “Because of this, they threatened the parents and took their children, again, to a madrassa. It is all because of large sums of money, and because there are no punishments for the trafficker.” (Read more here.)


NKorea lightbox

3. North Korea:  Number 1 for Christian Persecution

North Korea is the most hostile place for Christians around the globe,  according to the annual “World Watch” list from the Open Doors Organization.

The list ranks the 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. North Korea tops the 2013 list, thus holding its ranking for the eleventh year running.

“Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution,” the Open Doors report said. (Read more here.)


 

Union jack

4. Great Britain: Majority of Church-Going Christians Feel Persecuted and Marginalized

Over two-thirds of Christians in the United Kingdom feel part of a victimized minority, and David Cameron is making that worse by redefining marriage, the Coalition for Marriage says.

In a new poll commissioned by the group, almost eight in 10 said the prime minister’s same-sex marriage plan will lead to those who back traditional marriage facing the sack.

More than two-thirds (67 percent) said they felt part of a “persecuted minority.”

Marginalized
The survey also showed that over half of the U.K.’s Christians who voted Conservative in 2010 would “definitely not” do so again in 2015.

Colin Hart, campaign director of the Coalition for Marriage, said the poll showed “widespread and continued opposition towards David Cameron’s plans to redefine marriage.”

He added: “More worryingly it shows how Christians and those of faith are being treated like illegal aliens in their own country. They are being marginalized and persecuted for their beliefs. (Read more here.)


Egypt kidnapping

5. Egypt: Christians Targeted for Kidnappings

MATAI, Egypt (AP) — Ezzat Kromer’s resistance to his kidnappers did not last long. One of the masked gunmen fired a round between his feet as he sat behind the wheel of his car and said with chilling calm, “The next one will go into your heart.”

The Christian gynecologist says he was bundled into his abductors’ vehicle, forced to lie under their feet in the back seat for a 45-minute ride, then dumped in a small cold room while his kidnappers contacted his family over a ransom.

For the next 27 hours, he endured beatings, insults and threats to his life, while blindfolded, a bandage sealing his mouth and cotton balls in his ears.

Kromer’s case is part of a dramatic rise of kidnappings targetingChristians, including children, in Egypt‘s southern province of Minya, home to the country’s largest concentration of Christians but also a heartland for Islamist hard-liners.

The kidnappings are mostly blamed on criminal gangs, which operate more freely amid Egypt’s collapse in security since the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Crime has risen in general across Egypt, hitting Muslims as well. But the wave of kidnappings in Minya has specifically targeted Christians, and victims, church leaders and rights activists ultimately blame the atmosphere created by the rising power of hard-line Islamists.

They contend criminals are influenced by the rhetoric of radical clerics depicting Egypt’s Christian minority as second-class citizens and see Christians as fair game, with authorities less likely to investigate crimes against the community.

Over the past two years, there have been more than 150 reported kidnappings in the province — all of them targeting Christians, according to a top official at the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police. (Read the rest here.)


Cross Flag

6. United States: Pro Life Student Group Banned at Johns Hopkins University

.- A pro-life student group at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., is appealing a denial of official recognition, saying that it is being discriminated against for its views against abortion.

Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, told CNA that this decision is surprising, given that Johns Hopkins administration and students “pride themselves on being a ‘free speech campus’ – allowing dissenting opinions on campus and allowing a free exchange of ideas on campus.”

She added that there is a need for “upholding freedom of speech that isn’t popular.”

Voice for Life, a pro-life organization that is trying to re-start on the Johns Hopkins campus after several years of dormancy, has been rejected multiple times by the university’s student government, despite receiving clearance from the necessary committees as having met all campus requirements. (Read more here.)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X