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Real Persecution, Real Perspective

For the past couple of weeks we have been hearing a recurring theme of rejection in the Gospel readings:

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.” Mk 6:4

Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.” Mk 6:10-11

and this morning:

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Mt 11:23

Hearts were hardened and ears were closed to the message of Jesus from Jesus Himself! Jesus faced the ultimate rejection of His message and paid the price–the price of our redemption–with His life. It is not surprising that we see countless evidence of our own world rejecting the message of Christ and His Church. We’ll talk about evidence in the the Church in the United States where our Catholic Identity is being attacked and undermined–and even redefined–from within and without. But throughout the world the Church is being overtly persecuted and nary a news story is to be found:

  • In South Africa on June 5th Fr. Ernst Plochl, a Marianhill Missionary, was gunned down. On February 27th Fr. Daniel Metsela Mahula was killed by hitchhikers and on March 10th Fr. Lionel Sham was abducted and murdered.
  • July 1st a group of 37 US Senators urged Vietnam’s president to free Fr. Thadeus Nguyen Ly from prison after a March 2007 conviction and 7 year sentence–after serving 16 years for speaking out on human rights violation by the government.
  • July 13th Fr. Mariano Arroyo Merino was murdered in his parish in Cuba. Just this past February a 61 year old priest, Fr. Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano was found stabbed to death on the roadside west of Havana.
  • June 13th Fr. Habacuc Hernandez Benitez, 39, Vocations Coordinator for the Diocese of Altamirano, Mexico, Eduardo Oregón Benítez, 19, and Silvestre González Cambrón, 21, both seminarians were executed on their way to a vocations seminar
  • Six churches around Baghdad were bombed yesterday in a coordinated attack killing 4 and wounding 35 others. Many of Iraq’s estimated 1 million Christians have fled the country after targeted attacks by extremists. In October, more than a thousand Iraqi families fled Mosul after they were reportedly frightened by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists, who apparently ordered them to convert to Islam or face possible death. At least 14 Christians were killed in Mosul in the first two weeks of October.
  • ongoing persecution in China, India, Muslim nations

I could go on but you get the picture. Sometimes we have the tendency in the United States to think of the Church as the “Church in the United States”. We equate the Universal Church through our own myopic vision of the Church in this country. As a result we think that the recent papal encyclical Caritas in Veritate was specifically tailored to the US economy, or the scandal at Notre Dame and outspoken pro-choice catholics resonate throughout the world. Roman Catholics in the US constitute 5.75% of the Catholic population. That is 66 million out of 1.2 Billion worldwide Catholics. The importance of issues are not diminished but pale in comparison to people’s real struggle for survival and physical persecution.

Here’s some more perspective:
There are roughly 6 Billion people in the world.
If we reduce the world’s population to 100 people, the following would be a sample:

  • 57 out of the 100: Asians
  • 21 out of the 100: Europeans
  • 14 out of the 100: North and South Americans
  • 8 out of the 100: Africans
  • 51 out of the 100: Women
  • 49 out of the 100: Men
  • 68 out of the 100: Unable to read and write
  • 6 out of the 100: Would own and control almost 50% of the world’s wealth
  • All 6 would be US citizens
  • 1 out of the 100: Just born
  • 1 out of the 100: About to die
  • 1 out of the 100: Ever been to college
  • 1 child dies every 5 seconds from hunger

Let us pray for those who are persecuted and share in the suffering of Christ, and let us pray for the Church that hearts will be softened and ears may be opened to hear her message.

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