Christian Persecution and Conversion in Nigeria

Nigerian Christians have suffered a decade of murderous attacks from militant islamists, in particular the killer cult of Boko Haram. 

At the same time, Christianity has been growing. The Pentecostal movement is flourishing in Nigeria with all night prayer services drawing thousands of worshipers. 

The old saying is, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” 

Present-day martyrs for Christ are no exception to that. 

From PRI The World:

Credit: Rowan Moore Gerety

Under an open-air pavilion built to seat a million people, children sleep on mats spread out on the cobblestones while their parents enter their 6th consecutive hour of worship.

All-night prayer vigils are at the core of the country’s booming Pentecostal movement. Some churches draw worshippers in the hundreds of thousands.

At one church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Friday night vigils take place in what locals call an “auditorium.” It’s a covered pavilion the size of 87 football fields, and it’s not quite big enough. The church has already cleared ground for a bigger one. 

In fact, it’s something of a pattern: the church’s old pavilion was demolished a few years back, and now vendors have set up shop on the old foundation.

Once the service starts, all these people selling, they’ll close their shops and go inside the auditorium to listen to the word of God,” says Wale Akande, a volunteer who stands by the auditorium, welcoming visitors to the Holy Ghost Service in a fluorescent green vest.

The pavilion here was built in 2000 to seat a million people. It’s basically a corrugated rooftop. The ground below is paved with cobblestones and lined with thousands of crude wooden benches and plastic chairs. Akande says attendance is down tonight because of rain; the pavilion is only a third full.


Dolan: Christian Persecution is “a Humanitarian Catastrophe’

199068 407434249321227 1966606447 n

God love Cardinal Timothy Dolan. 

He took the podium at the annual fall assembly of Catholic Bishops to speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Public Catholic reader, Manny, sent a wonderful letter to Cardinal Dolan a few weeks ago, encouraging the Cardinal to do all that he could to help persecuted Christians. Perhaps we should all take to our word processors and send letters.

Christians need to stand in unity with persecuted Christians and not be intimidated by foul-mouthed attacks from those who seek to silence us. People who try to deny the persecution of Christians and who attack those who speak out for them are fellow travelers and enablers of those who carry the guns, wield the clubs and light the flames. 

From Catholic News Agency:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to be advocates of Christians persecuted for their faith around the world, encouraging prayers as well as action on their behalf.

In his address to the assembly, Cardinal Dolan said one million Christians have been killed for their faith in the first years of the 21st century, which he called “a new age of martyrs.” Citing the Pew Research Center, he said that over 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with restrictions on freedom of religion.

He declared a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria, where two Orthodox bishops have been kidnapped amid the ongoing civil war. He said the Iraq war and its consequences have “devastated” Iraq’s ancient Christian community. The 2012 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad resulted in a massacre of 58 Christians.

The cardinal also noted a “serious escalation of violence” against Christians in Egypt, where dozens of Coptic churches have been burned. An August attack on a school run by Franciscan nuns resulted in the rape of two teachers. Three nuns were paraded “as prisoners of war.”

There have also been attacks on African Christians, such as shootings of priests and church burnings …

Cardinal Dolan said the situation in India is “grave” in the aftermath of the 2008 Orissa massacres that killed hundreds of Christians and displaced thousands more. Thousands of homes and about 400 churches were destroyed. 

In addition, the cardinal noted the pressures on Christians in China, such as the state supervision and imprisonment that faces Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.

In light of these grave global challenges, Cardinal Dolan made several suggestions for action.

The bishops should encourage “a culture of prayer for persecuted Christians,” both in private prayer and in liturgical intercessions …

He encouraged the bishops to make others aware of the suffering of other Christians through their columns, blogs, speeches and pastoral letters … ask pastors to preach on the topic … encourage Catholic media to “tell the stories of today’s new martyrs.”

The bishops can insist that U.S. leaders listen to persecuted Christians and make their protection “a foreign policy priority,” he added, observing that this has not been a high priority for presidential administrations of either major political party.

Are Christian Bashers Bullying Us Into Silence About Christian Persecution?

NewsweekChristianPersecution The reluctance of predominately Christian countries to speak out is remarkable.

That quote comes from a February 2012 article in the National Review.

The article describes a PEW Research study which says that over 200 million Christians live in countries where they are persecuted. The article also states that over 100,000 Christians are murdered each year for their faith. 

After going through all these facts, the National Review author comments that the reluctance of predominantly Christian countries to speak out is remarkable. 

Is it remarkable? Or is it an obvious result of the harassment and repeated attacks people who speak out about Christian persecution are subjected to?

Are those who tacitly support the violent persecution of Christians able to silence those Christians’ supporters in the West by the simple methods of mocking, deriding and slandering them into silence?

I think the answer is yes.

Every time I write a post about Christian persecution, I get a flurry of nasties coming on here to claim that (1) It ain’t so, and (2) I’m both a moral and intellectual demagogue for claiming that it is so. I’ve had other bloggers dedicate posts on their blogs to attacks on my intellect and my compassion because I wrote about Christian persecution. I have had fellow travelers of those who murder, rape, batter, abduct and terrify Christians join around the virtual campfire to take shots at me.

What does this indicate — beyond the fact that some bloggers aren’t so crazy about Rebecca Hamilton? I think that it’s a small sampling of what awaits those who try to stand up for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.  As such, it offers an explanation as to why the silence about Christian persecution from the Christian West is not so remarkable after all.

My advice to anyone who wants to take a stand against the atrocities that Christians suffer in much of the world today is consider the source of the insults they may receive and go ahead and speak up. Criticisms which are designed to tacitly support mass murder are not worthy of either answers or serious consideration.

Persecuted Christians are Christ crucified, right in front of us.

The mob yelled “Crucify Him!” and Jesus’ friends ran away from Him on that day. They ran away naked in the night, denied they even knew Him and went into hiding while He was tortured and murdered. Only the women and one disciple went to the cross with Him.

Don’t let today’s descendants of that mob scare you into running away from Him. His Passion is happening again in the suffering of our brothers and sisters. Don’t miss your chance to be one of the faithful few who don’t run away.

From National Review Online:

Perhaps the gravest under-publicized atrocity in the world is the persecution of Christians. A comprehensive Pew Forum study last year found that Christians are persecuted in 131 countries containing 70 percent of the world’s population, out of 197 countries in the world (if Palestine, Taiwan, South Sudan, and the Vatican are included). Best estimates are that about 200 million Christians are in communities where they are persecuted. There is not the slightest question of the scale and barbarity of this persecution, and a little of it is adequately publicized. But this highlights the second half of the atrocity: the passivity and blasé indifference of most of the West’s media and governments.

It is not generally appreciated that over 100,000 Christians a year are murdered because of their faith. Because Christianity is, by a wide margin, the world’s largest religion, the leading religion in the traditionally most advanced areas of the world, and, despite its many fissures, the best organized, largely because of the relatively tight and authoritarian structure of the Roman Catholic Church, the West is not accustomed to thinking of Christians as a minority, much less a persecuted one.

… The reluctance of the leading predominantly Christian countries to speak out against these outrages is remarkable.

Nigerian Christians Want Peace, Not Vengeance

Nigerian Christians call for peace, not vengeance. They even talk of forgiveness. The Nigerian Christians I have corresponded with have — every single one of them — asked for prayer.

Our resolve to help them and stand by them must not falter. What that means — among other things — is that we must not allow ourselves to bullied into silence by personal attacks against us from those who want to turn a blind eye to Christian persecution. We must never allow them to divide us from other Christians.

We all stand in solidarity before the cross. We in the West are called to show that solidarity when it comes to the violent persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We need to lift up the witness of these martyred Christians and their families and friends for all the world to see.

YouTube Preview Image

Christian Persecution: The Deadly Worldwide Plague

Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints. Psalm 116


Christian persecution is a deadly worldwide plague.

The evidence of massive, international Christian persecution is abundant.

What, exactly, causes some groups of people to be so vociferous and ugly in their denial of Christian persecution? What would cause someone to stoop to the level of personal attacks against those who speak of Christian persecution?

These attacks, which are often slanderous, are crude attempts to silence those who would speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Given what is happening, why would anyone do this?

I had a long talk about this with one of my sons a couple of weeks back, and he said something that I think is more pertinent than we would like to admit. People who do things like this are at one with the persecutors. 

What he meant by this was that those who try to silence people who speak out for persecuted Christians are fellow travelers and enablers of the persecutors themselves. There is nothing new under the sun, and that is especially true when we talk about the great evil of violent persecution of whole groups of people.

The persecutors could not act without their enforcers in the larger world demanding and coercing the silence of those who would speak against them. Evil, like cockroaches, needs darkness.

That’s why Hitler set up phony concentration camps to show the Red Cross. It is also why the Red Cross and the rest of the world bought it. No one seems to have questioned the rationale behind putting an entire population of people in concentration camps in the first place. Without that compliance, the lie would and could not have stood.

It’s also why I get attacked just about every time I publish a post about the persecution of Christians. Persecutors always have their apologists. They need the darkness of obfuscation to continue their deadly work.

It is painful to be attacked, but in this case, it is also an honor. I would far rather be the person who gets attacked for taking a stand against the persecution of Christians than the person who does the attacking. They are a sad lot.

I regard these slurs and jibes as small attacks on me for doing my best to follow Christ. I am a little shy about saying this, because what I am doing by writing posts about Christian persecution is such a small thing that it embarrasses me. But by attacking me for trying, however feebly, to follow Christ, these people are giving me the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, what I will say to those who go at me personally for trying to speak out about the persecution of Christians is thank you. I forgive you from my heart for your attempts to harm me personally and I pray for you daily.

However, what I say to them about their support for the persecutors is shame on you. To use a quote from the McCarthy hearings of long ago: Have you no decency?

Here are a few examples of Christian persecution:

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

 

Congressional hearings on Christian Persecution.

Vatican Analyst Warns of Global War Against Christians

Global war cover

John Allen, the respected Vatican analyst, digs into the issue of anti-Christian abuse around the world. 

“I don’t think it takes any religious convictions or confessional interests at all to see that defense of persecuted Christians deserves to be the world’s number one human rights priority,” Allen, a noted Vatican journalist and author, told CNA in an Oct. 2

I’m going to order the book and then review it here on Public Catholic. In the meantime, you can read more about it here

All Work for God Begins with Prayer

NewsweekChristianPersecution

I had a small discussion with one of Public Catholic’s most faithful — and interesting — readers the other day.

I had published this post calling for prayer for persecuted Christians. This particular reader said that we need to do something about this and not just pray. It made me smile when I read that because he’s right: We need to do something.

And we will.

If we pray.

Why would anyone recommend prayer in the face of this onslaught of slaughter? One reason is that the persecuted Christians themselves ask for prayer. Every time I talk to someone who lives in an area where Christians are subjected to violent persecution, I ask them how I can help them. Invariably, they ask for prayer.

Why?

You’d think they’d ask for a rocket launcher, or at least a few grenades.

Why prayer?

I think the answer is that these people are people of faith, just like us, only they no longer carry around the burden of the accoutrements of faith that weigh us down. Every person I have ever talked to who has been through violent persecution for Christ has both a strength and a gentleness that sets them apart.

The things we think are so important have been stripped away from them as they come face to face with the question that we all wonder how we would answer: Will you die for Him?

I think that once a person looks into the reality of that question, not as a hypothetical, but as an actual life or death decision that they are making, they are changed. The fires of persecution seem to burn away the chaff of people’s lives and the ones who persist and do not yield learn what sustains in time of grave peril.

I think that is why they ask for prayer.

That is one reason to pray, because the people we want to help have asked us to pray.

Another reason is because entering into this arena of Christian persecution paints our faces on the devil’s dart board. We will be assailed and attacked, slandered and maligned for speaking out for persecuted Christians. This is the natural course of things when anyone defends God’s children. We need prayer for the strength it gives us as we do this work.

The next reason to pray is because we need direction. Not only that, but we need God to raise up Christians everywhere to fight this plague of violence. We need to pray and pray and let God work.

Prayer is the key to doing God’s will. Not that He is likely to put a burning bush that is not consumed in our paths. But that prayer keeps us in contact with grace. If we want to do something about persecuted Christians — and I hope sincerely that every one who reads this does — begin with prayer. I don’t mean one Rosary or some small bit of jingoistic something you learned as a child. I mean walking with the Lord in prayer day after day after day.

Just pray and wait. If God wants active work from you, you’ll know soon enough. If, on the other hand, He wants you to be a permanent prayer warrior, do that.

I was thrilled with what the reader said that day. Excited. Because I think he’s the kind of person who actually will do something. I do not want to stifle anyone in that. I only ask that in all the doing, we pray and wait on the Lord lead us first.

All work for God begins with prayer. That’s a truth of life in Christ as I know it.

Pope Francis Speaks About Church Bombing in Pakistan

This video is from last Sunday, after Taliban operatives bombed a Christian church service, killing at least 85 people and wounding 145 others.

It is easy to see how moved the Holy Father was by this.

God save these, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

YouTube Preview Image

 

India: Faith Grows Among Persecuted Christians in Orissa

Bann01

We have been faced lately with the defection of a number of highly-placed American Christians on serious matters of faith. 

In particular, there has been a large retreat among political and intellectual Christian leadership on the question of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. They are either tossing marriage out the door altogether, or they are, as I was once counseled concerning abortion, urging the rest of us to leave our beliefs at home or inside our houses of worship. 

I’m not talking about one, specific, runner. I’m talking about a whole group of people who have grown fat off denouncing other people for not supporting the very values they are now running from themselves. Excuse me please if I won’t go along with their self-serving patter. 

But I’m not going to. 

I think they’re self-serving phonies. 

I also think that they should consider persecuted Christians around the world who are holding fast to the cross in the face of horrific suffering. 

A case in point is the persecuted Christian population of Orissa, India. Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Orissa, eastern India) says,

“Faith in Orissa is growing because of the persecution. This mission, in the face of violent persecutions, has become the focus of religious and priestly vocations.”

Consider, for a moment, what sincere Christians face in India. According to Archbishop Barwa, 

… the district of Kandhamal, where the majority of Catholics of the Archdiocese live, has faced untold persecution”. The highest point were the pogroms of 2008: “During the persecutions, there was an ethnic cleansing of all Christians in 400 villages, more than 6,000 houses, 340 churches and chapels, clinics and schools were burned and destroyed. Thousands of believers were injured, several women and girls, including a nun, were raped and about 60,000 men, women and children were left homeless”. The Bishop recalled that 75 Christians (22 Catholics, 28 Baptists, 12 Pentecostals, 5 of independent churches) and 8 non-tribal Christians were brutally murdered.

The text continues: “Five years after the persecutions, visiting the affected communities, the faithful say to the Bishop: the persecutors burned our houses, property, and killed our loved ones, but they did not manage to destroy our faith and cannot separate us from the love of Jesus Christ .We are proud to be Christians and proud of our faith”. Words and actions of this kind “are clear signs of growth in faith. They may be poor and illiterate, but rich people of faith”, he comments.
The Archbishop explains that still there is no guarantee that persecution will not be repeated: “We live trusting in God and making every effort, as individuals and communities, to build peace in Kandhamal, but we surrender to God and say: Let there be your will”.

He goes on to describe what I believe is beginning to happen here in the “Christian” West when he says, “Each growth is a process that requires pruning, trials and suffering.”

The devil is collecting the low-hanging fruit with the runners who are running away from traditional marriage in America today. These folks don’t need persecution to make them tuck tail and skeedaddle. If you stop and think about it, they’ve never really talked about following Jesus. Their focus for decades has been on denouncing other people. They haven’t urged us to live by our faith or even to bring people to Christ. Their entire focus has been on manipulating us into believing that being a Christian was summarized by how we vote.

The purpose of all this wasn’t our souls or the conversion of our culture. It was their power.

All they needed to switch horses on these issues they were pushing in lieu of actual Christianity was for the manipulations to stop delivering enough votes to give them the power. They are switching — and trying to get us to switch along with them — on 2,000 years of Christian teachings because denouncing people over those teachings has stopped being profitable. The minute they see the money is leaving the fight, they leave the fight right behind it. 

Christianity is growing in India because the Christians there are following Christ. 

Cowardice and Christianity don’t mix. Opportunism and political manipulations don’t mix with Christianity, either.

They never have.

Christianity was so ascendent here in the West that its popularity covered for the manipulators and cowards in our midst. But things are changing. Faithfully following Jesus is beginning to be a career breaker, rather than a career maker. 

We shouldn’t be surprised when people who were only pretending to follow Jesus in the first place fall away under these circumstances. It is inevitable. 

I am humbled by the persecuted Christians in our world today, those in Orissa among them. I know that God holds them close, because I know that none of us has the courage to stand toe to toe with satan incarnate and not run unless the Holy Spirit is empowering them. 

We need to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in every way we can, including by praying for them every single day. I hope they in turn will pray for us.

Because their prayers avail much. 

Because they walk with God. 

 

The link to this article is courtesy of reader Fabio. 

Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 7

StMichaelFace

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 7 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

For today’s meditation, let’s consider Simon of Cyrene. 

Simon of Cyrene was a long way from home that day. Cyrene was a town in Africa, a former Greek colony, in the area we now call Lybia. 

He had probably come to Jerusalem for the Passover. He may never have heard of Jesus before that day. It is almost certain that he had no desire to get involved in this execution, much less be forced to help a bleeding, dying man carry His cross to His crucifixion. 

Roman soldiers had enormous power over the civilian population. They could arrest people on their own initiative, kill people who interfered with their duties, use people’s homes and provender to carry out their work and impress anyone they chose to work as free labor for them. 

When Jesus said If someone forces you to go with them a mile, go with them two miles, He was referring to the practice of Roman soldiers. They impressed random bystanders into carrying their loads and functioning as their beasts of burden. It was not a volunteer position, and the person who was forced into labor was not paid. 

That is what happened to Simon of Cyrene. He was evidently among the bystanders, watching the spectacle of three men, carrying the instruments of their execution to the place where they would die. 

The excessive cruelty the Roman soldiers had heaped on Jesus was causing them trouble now. This man they had beaten was so weakened by loss of blood and the injuries they’d inflicted that He fell repeatedly while trying to carry his cross. 

The Romans had a timetable. They were tasked with getting these three men on their crosses and dead before the Passover began that evening. The whole purpose of Jesus’ death was to spare their Governor the problems of an uprising. Breaking Jewish law by leaving these Jews hanging on their crosses alive after sundown might provoke the very uprising the Governor was trying to prevent. 

They didn’t have time to dally with a dead man, walking on the way to His final execution, Who was too weak to get there. 

The solution, for them at least, was simple. They grabbed a man at random, without knowing, as the authors of the Gospels did, his name, and forced him to carry the cross for Jesus. 

Simon doubtless thought this was his unlucky day. Here he’d come to Jerusalem on pilgrimage like the good Jew he probably was. He’d brought his two sons, Rufus and Alexander, and most likely the rest of his family, as well. It was supposed to be a holy time; a time of rejoicing.

And here he was, forced to stand beside this sweaty, smelly, bleeding wretch of a man — this criminal — and lift the heavy cross onto his own shoulders and help the man carry it to his death. 

Day ruined. 

Pilgrimage ruined. 

And yet something unexpected must have happened that day. Because scripture indicates that Simon didn’t just walk away. This indignity he suffered didn’t just fade into part of the family lore about what happened to Dad when we went to Passover in Jerusalem a long time ago.

The Gospel authors knew him. They knew the names of his sons. There is a familiarity about the way they identify him that makes it clear that Simon of Cyrene’s interaction with the followers of Christ went on past that horrible morning when He helped the Son of God carry His cross to Golgotha. 

This is satan’s hour, Jesus told His disciples. But even in this deepest darkness of the worst crime of our human history, the Light shone through. It touched the thief on the cross. It entered the soldier who confessed Him. And it evidently touched and stayed with Simon of Cyrene, as well.

It’s the same today.

Even in the deepest darkness of Christ crucified again in the persecution of His followers, the light of their witness, their fidelity, their awesome faith, shines through. 

These people who, in the face of unbearable terror, refuse to convert away from Christ, refuse to recant and deny Him, are the Light, shining for all of us. 

We need to set their light on a hill and let it shine so that it touches all of indifferent and callous humanity. Our first task as their brothers and sisters is to give their awesome witness to the faith the attention and respect that it deserves. 

Pray for an end to the persecution, yes. 

But in our praying we must pray also that their witness to the Truth is seen and known and honored in every church, before every Tabernacle and in every heart where Christ is worshipped around the world. 

Even in the deepest darkness, the Light still shines. 

Pray that we will have the eyes to see it, the courage to proclaim it. 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 7. 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 6
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


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X