By Nadia Maria Smith
CS&T Staff Writer
Pope Benedict XVI has called for an end to Christian persecutions. The appeal came after anti-Christian violence broke out in India and Iraq, where thousands have been displaced.
“The sacredness of every human life must be respected and every attack on human life condemned,” the Pope said. He expressed his “spiritual closeness to all those brothers and sisters in the faith who are so sorely tried” and prayed that “the Lord accompany them and support them in this time of trial.”
He also implored local civil authorities and religious leaders to work together to reestablish peaceful coexistence.
India’s violence, which began in August, is said to be the worst anti-Christian attacks in the 60 years since India’s independence. [See stories on pages 8 and 9.]
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Bishops Conference of India along with the Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit organization that has been serving persecuted Christians in over 40 countries, are calling for a day of prayer on Nov. 9 to pray for Christians around the world living daily under the threat of persecution as a part of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).
Cardinal Justin Rigali has asked all parishes to remember this intention during Sunday Mass on Nov. 9 and pray “for all those who suffer because of their faith in Christ, especially our brothers and sisters in India, that the Lord will grant an end to the persecution and the grace of perseverance.”
In Iraq, violence has erupted against Christians in the Mosul and Nineveh provinces, and is believed to be part of a political plan to create discord among Iraq’s various communities, according to the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Iraq in a statement following their meeting Oct. 29.
The violence and intimidation by extremists, which began in early October, has claimed about 15 lives and forced more than half of Mosul’s Christian population – 13,000 – to flee the area.
Reports claims that there is a push to cleanse the northern region of Christians.
“The situation in some parts of Iraq is disastrous and tragic. Life is a Calvary: there is no peace or security, just as there is a lack of daily necessities,” said Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, head of the synod of the Chaldean Church.
“Living the word of God for us means bearing witness even at the cost of our own lives, as has taken place and is still happening with the sacrifice of bishops, priests, and faithful. They remain in Iraq, strong in faith and love of Christ, thanks to the fire of the word of God,” Cardinal Delly said.
In China, the China Aid Association (CAA) reported that since the end of the Olympics in Beijing, cases of religious persecution have increased.
CAA has received reports of intensified religious persecution in the form of evictions, beatings, arrests and banning of house churches in Beijing, Heilongjiang, Yunnan and Shangdong provinces.
In Russia, two Jesuit missionaries were killed in their downtown apartment last month. While their murder is under investigation, two Baptist pastors in former Soviet republics have been detained because they continued worship services despite opposition from local authorities, Christians and rights watchers said.
According to the Christian Aid Mission (CAM), which supports native missionaries in the country, authorities in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan have begun destroying and banning Protestant churches, forcing an increasing number of Christians to meet and worship in “underground” missions.
“The persecution calls attention to the fact that so many of our missionaries do work in countries where there is political unrest and discrimination,” said Msgr. James McDonough, the director of the archdiocesan Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
“We’ve seen it at a number of places around the world in which missionaries have to leave because of the dangers of the situation. There is an urgent call among all people of good will to pray for God’s help to end this violence and for a spirit of peace we all want. I don’t think there is anything more effective than prayer.”
CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at email@example.com or (215) 965-4614.