When I think of the persecuted Christian Church, it is easy to lump all the horrific stories into one overwhelmingly horrible, unsolvable issue and to then pray vaguely for them, without considering the individual stories. At the same time, my own faith can become routine and commonplace, and I can forget the miracle of what happens every time we attend Mass: heaven and earth truly meeting and bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. When I really think about this, I know that this is a faith worth giving my life for. Persecution of our faith in the West is less about facing certain death for it, and more of an uncomfortable series of miniature sufferings and taunts! Rarely are we asked to lay down our lives for it, or flee in the face of torture, leaving behind our homes, careers, studies and the futures we had dreamed of. But what if it happened that we were asked of such a sacrifice? Could we do it? Here we share five stories of recent persecution that our brothers and sisters in Christ have faced around the world. Their stories truly bring home the price of our faith that some are asked to pay. Let us pray for them, and in turn, pray that we will not let them down in the small ways that we are asked to witness to our faith in our daily lives.
Christians amount to less than 1% of the population of Burma, and they are the most persecuted and tightly controlled group in the country. Burma’s many ethnic groups have lead to civil war and human rights atrocities, and their new civilian-led government created in 2016 has not been the positive improvement hoped for. Christians are restricted, watched, priests are tracked, and people live “in fear of arrest or torture.”
Pray for the persecuted Christians of Burma!
2. Syria and Iraq
The situation for Christians in the Middle East is arguably the most publicized of Christian persecution, but is no less in need of our prayers.
In Syria, a religious named Sister Annie described how she continued to keep working in Aleppo even during the increasingly deteriorating situation of the bombardment and siege. At one point, during a time of giving aid to those trapped amongst the bombs, she said that she “thought it was my last moment to live” This video gives a tiny snapshot into the lives of Syrians during the Civil War. For those in the refugee camps in Erbil, Iraq, they have left behind everything in the risk for their lives and continue to live out their Christian faith in the most challenging conditions. If and when they can return home to their towns and villages, they do not know what they will find. They fled, defenseless, for the sole reason that they would not deny their love for Christ. Pray for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East!
Nigeria’s Christians have faced increasing persecution and death for their faith. In 2013, after their regular Stations of the Cross in church and Mass for the Sick, the parish of St Martin’s Church in Ganye, Nigeria were aware that the extremist Islamic group Boko Haram were approaching the church. The church was soon surrounded and taunted by shouts and gunshots, the majority of parishioners were trapped and unable to escape. In this video, Geoffrey Puli, the parish secretary explains what happened next.
The charity Aid to the Church in Need explains that “the Diocese of Maiduguri [has] endured some of the worst atrocities: Their churches desecrated; their loved ones slaughtered – and not to mention the women, girls and young men who have been kidnapped or forced into suicide missions.” Pray for the persecuted Christians of Nigeria!
The number of Christians in China has grown to overtake the number of members of the Communist Party, but they still face enormous persecution which drives them underground. While China’s embrace of capitalism and development as a country bring it prosperity in some parts, “Imprisonment, torture and even death” face those who publicly embrace their Christian faith. Churches are routinely destroyed. So secret must the Church be in China that there is little news about its persecution and little publicity about the aid work that goes on to minister to those practicing their faith there, but that must not stop us praying for the persecuted Christians of China!
Christians are a minority in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, and extremists use suicide bombs to terrorize and drive out the faithful in their churches. In one such attack in 2015, Akash Bashir, a 20 year old volunteer guard told a suicide bomber that he would “rather die than let you step over the threshold of our church.” Mass was being offered inside the church and Akash ran forward to stop the bomber from entering. He lost his life in the subsequent blast.
Many more such witnesses to the Christian faith exist in this country, and so we should always remember to pray for the persecuted Christians of Pakistan!
Father in Heaven, you make your sun shine on good and bad alike. Your Son Jesus Christ died for us all and in his glorious Resurrection He still retains the five wounds of his Passion.
With his divine power he now sustains all those who suffer persecution and martyrdom for the sake of their fidelity to the faith of the Church. Merciful and mighty Father, do not allow Cain to return again to murder helpless Abel, innocent Abel. May persecuted Christians around the world remain, like Mary, their Mother, together at the foot of the cross of Christ the Martyr. Comfort those menaced by violence and those oppressed by uncertainty. May your Holy Spirit of love make fruitful the witness and the blood of those who die forgiving.
All stories of persecuted Christians in this article have been gratefully sourced from the website of the charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Online Workshop: Discover 7 Life Changing Moments that Happen at Mass
In this Online Workshop, we will be looking at different moments during the Mass where we can truly experience the love that God has for us. Leading us in these discoveries will be Fr. Michael Denk from The Prodigal Father, our guest for the Pray40Days Lenten conference! You will learn how and why the Mass and the Eucharist is the “Source and Summit” of the Christian life and what that means for your daily life. We will talk through ways to go deeper into the Mass and Fr. Denk will answer any questions you may have!
This workshop will help you experience the Mass more deeply and be equipped to help others come to experience more too! Fr. Denk will also be sharing about a 7-part series he created to help guide the laity through the mysteries of the liturgy.