For many of us who strive to seriously practice faith in Jesus Christ, and to extend that practice out into the marketplace, the political square and society at large, persecution rarely means more than being ridiculed, verbally harassed, and to a certain degree socially and politically marginalized.
But for so many other Christians throughout the world who courageously refuse to deny Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – with all that that means – persecution means torture, rape, enslavement and death.
In his well-researched book, “The Global War on Christians,” Catholic journalist John Allen, cites studies that indicate the number of Christians killed for the faith every year ranges from 7,300 to 100,000 worldwide.
Even the lower figure of 7,300 people murdered every year because of their faith in Christ is shocking, and sadly alarming.
It is incumbent on those of us who are safe and sound to tirelessly pray, advocate for, and work on behalf of hurting and vulnerable Christians.
While followers of Jesus have a strict obligation to help all people in need to the best of our ability – regardless of their race, ethnicity, nationality or religion – we have a special responsibility to reach out to our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.
For as St. Paul teaches, “So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith” (Gal 6:10).
Allen writes, “Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their new martyrs suffer in silence.”
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel said, “We must take sides. … Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
So, what should we do to help end the genocide?
Every day let’s remember in our personal and liturgical prayers those who suffer in any way – especially for their faith in Jesus.
Parishes can sponsor a refugee family. Pope Francis has asked every parish in Europe to do just that. In the spirit of Francis, parishes throughout the world should likewise open their doors to our persecuted brothers and sisters. It’s really not that hard.
And many of us can increase our individual contributions to help. An excellent international Catholic organization dedicated to helping persecuted Christians worldwide is Aid to the Church in Need. Please go to this link to make a donation http://bit.ly/25dsdoy.
Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services shared with me that it is also essential for every believer to email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) their congressional delegation urging them to provide significantly increased humanitarian funding and support for the immediate and long-term needs of refugees in the Middle East, full support for a negotiated peace in Syria, and a comprehensive plan to rebuild Syria once the fighting ends.
According to U.S. State Department figures, since March of 2011 – when the Syrian conflict started – approximately 1,550 Syrians have been admitted through the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The U.S. can certainly do far better than this, especially since it has just recently declared that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities (see: http://bit.ly/1R2lt2A).
As I write, the solemness of Good Friday is close at hand. And many of the followers of the crucified Jesus are being crucified with him. Let us do everything we can to remove them from their crosses, and lighten the weight of our Lord’s cross who suffers with them.
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.