The Persecution of Christians
And the persecution of Christians continues unabated and with increasing boldness in the 21st century:
Fr Andrea Santoro (left)was killed outside his church in Turkey, apparently for no other reason than the fact that he was a Christian. The Italian missionary is already being hailed as a martyr in some Christian quarters, and the Holy See has announced moves to beatify him.
Today, news has emerged of an Afghan who is set to be tried and executed for converting to Christianity some 14 years ago. Attempts by Muslim apologists in The Times to justify this on the grounds of Christian intolerance during the Inquisition and the Crusades seem to betray ignorance about these events as well as to ignore the fact that we live in a more tolerant age with an understanding of basic human rights - many of which are a fruit of Christian influence.
Recently we had an appeal in our chapel for a family of refugees from Pakistan who are claiming asylum in Britain because they are likely to be ostracized and killed if they were to return to their homeland. Their crime? Converting to Christianity. Please pray for this family as they are appealing against deportation by the British government.
Of course, Christians are being persecuted not only by Muslims but by other regimes and states too. The Christian Solidarity Worldwide site keeps track of these new martyrs for the Faith. Jonathan Raban's article on the rise of fundamentalism and its roots is also instructive to add balance and perspective to our this issue.
We often hear Muslim 'leaders' who claim that Islam is a religion of peace. Indeed, the very word 'Islam' is derived from the Arabic word 'salam' which means peace or harmony. If that is so, it has to be borne out in action, above all by Islamic nations. As Pope Benedict XVI said on 8 February 2006, it is hoped that the witness of martyrs like Fr Andrea Santoro will "contribute to dialogue between religions and to peace among people." If there is any lesson to be learnt from the Crusades, it is that violence and bloodshed does not resolve our differences nor is it a sound way to teach the Truth.
The sacrifice of love given by the martyrs and by persecuted Christians is still the only true witness to Christ, the King of Martyrs and He alone will draw hearts to Himself, converting them with His infinite Love.
May the martyrs pray for us all, especially those who are persecuted for the the sake of Jesus Christ, the Church and His Gospel.