Last Sunday two of our parishioners took the initiative to organize an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament on behalf of our Christian brothers and sisters who are being harassed and even murdered in Iraq by ISIS militants. In its April 21, 2014 issue TIME magazine featured an article entitled “Unholy Choices” which directly addressed the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Even our Holy Father Pope Francis expressed his concern over the situation of those Christians last November when he spoke to Middle Eastern Christian leaders. He said, “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.
In recent weeks the persecution by ISIS has shifted to Iraq churches. This terrorist organization has reinstated a rule from the seventh century established by a Caliph who offered protection to Christians in exchange for half an ounce of gold. The already-cited TIME magazine article states: “If they [Christians] didn’t want to pay, they had two other options: they could convert or, as some interpretations of the pact between Muslim rulers and their Christian subjects suggest, ‘face the sword’.” Such a dilemma is now facing Christians in Iraq. There are news reports that Christians have already been killed in that country. Churches have been burned and members are on the run.
As a result of such persecution, many of these ancient Christian lands are losing their Christian presence. It is said that in Iraq alone in 2003 there were over 1.5 million Christians. In 2013 that number had dwindled to 450,000. Now the estimates put that number as low as 200,000. This deliberate attempt to wipe out Christianity from the region where it was born and flourished in the first centuries disturbs us. And yet, Western media offers scant coverage to this all important story. I still remember how in 2000 when Hindus massacred both Muslims and Christians in India in the State of Gujarat, Western newspapers hardly covered the story. Ironically Gujarat was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi who preached peace and non-violence.
As Christians, we do know that we are called upon to suffer for His name. At the same time, we cannot allow our Christian sisters and brothers to perish without doing all we can to protect them. I would like to invite all of us to pray for them. Maybe our adorers can intercede with the Eucharistic Lord that the historic Christian churches of the Middle East can survive. Let us pray for this intention in our personal as well as in our family prayers.
We forget that as Americans we have significant influence on the world stage. We must exert political pressure to shape our foreign policy. We must insist with our elected leaders that more must be done to protect Christians in that region. We need to find a political solution that will ensure their long-term security. Any terrorist group that is hell-bent on destroying people of other faiths unless they convert is a grave threat to the whole human race and to our civilization. We must treat this threat with the utmost seriousness.
When will we learn? In my own not-so-lengthy lifetime I have witnessed many attempts to erase certain groups from the face of the earth. There was Hitler before I came into this world. I remember Pol Pot who killed millions in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Then came Idi Amin in Uganda. Some years later the world was horrified by the mass killings in Rwanda. There have been other such horror stories which I am unable to name. Now we are seeing with our very eyes the killing of minorities by the ISIS. When will it stop?
Let us beg Our Lord to have mercy on our world. Sometimes I wonder whether God would regret having made us humans. I know for sure that God does not regret His actions. It is easy to feel despondent over these kinds of events in our world. It is in moments such as these we should hear the voice of the Master say, “I am here. Do not be afraid!” He is still in control. The world may seem to be teetering on the edge of disaster. However, in His own good time, the Lord of the universe will make everything right. In the meantime let us keep praying with all our might. Let us ask the Mary, the Mother of the Church, to protect her children.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...