was originally written in late 2013. I am reposting it for two reasons: It feels eerily even more relevant in October, 2019 as a beleaguered Israel prepares for war without global support of any kind; the United Nation’s attention on Israel is confined to absurdities and the US continues the endless attempts to bring down the President.
Secondly because My Name is Saul is demanding all of my energy as I work to meet my deadline.
A couple of weeks ago while still in Half Moon Bay, we were talking with friends over coffee about the persecution of Catholics during the reign of Hitler’s Nazi Germany and later in Bosnia, Sherrie replied that Catholics and Christians were being persecuted today, here and in the world at large.
Being the classically insulated American that I am, I thought her answer was overly dramatic and somewhat dismissive of what had happened in Germany and Bosnia. But the following Sunday, we listened to Fr. Joe preaching on Luke’s apocalyptic Gospel in which Jesus speaks of wars, insurrections, powerful earthquakes and famines, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom…
” but before all this happens, however, they will seize you and hand you over to..,prisons…lead you to kings and governors because of my name…you will even be handed over by parents, brothers…and they will put some of you to death…you will be hated by all…but not a hair on your head will be destroyed…”
The priest recalled my friend’s words as he spoke about the many places in the world where Christians are at great risk, not just to religious liberty but to their lives, when they practice their faith.
From a book called, The Global War on Christianity by John Allen, Jr, I am reminded of just how insulated is this country from the violence and terrorism raining down on our Christian brothers and sisters in our world. Allen makes clear that martyrdom is not rare or exceptional; the Center for the US Study of Global Christianity estimates between 100 – 150,000 martyred annually since the year 2000.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates that in 139 countries- 3/4 of the countries in the world, practicing the Christian faith poses risk to life and liberty with 2/3 of these countries having a Muslim majority.
The numbers are made horrifyingly real when we read of the September 25th attack on an Anglican Church in Peshawar Pakistan resulting in more that 85 people dead.
Pope Francis ended his celebration of Sunday’s Solemnity of Christ the King with an appeal for prayer for our many persecuted brethren all over the world; most of whom I have been completely ignorant of.
Although I have a vivid imagination, I cannot visualize the kind of hatred which would cause our government or radical groups to murder me and my fellow Christians because we are praying, writing and teaching about our faith. But most likely those Pakastani Anglicans in church on a September Sunday had little to no hint about the impending explosions…but then again, maybe they did and they went to worship together despite their fear.
During this Thanksgiving week, I am grateful that my country has so far been spared from these acts of terror and I will join Pope Francis in praying for those who risk their lives when they go to worship.
But there is a part of me which wonders what I would do, what I would say were I called to testify for Him…in full knowledge of what I risked.
Would I believe what He promises?