2016, to date, has been yet another difficult and violent year for the world, to say the least. It would be perhaps rude on a day like Easter to list the problems that face us in our modern age. Yet list them we will. From the uncivil nature of the U.S. presidential campaign, which, in many ways, has descended into a crass and vulgar experience, to the continual assault on religious liberty in our nation, to the overt campaign through many parts of the media for the total acceptance of that which is contrary to not only the Christian faith, but indeed, natural law.
Nothing is more indicative of the tragedy of the world than the continual martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East. The tragic murder in Yemen of four Missionary of Charity Sisters, Sister Anselm from India, Sister Margherite from Rwanda, Sister Reginette from Rwanda, and Sister Judith from Kenya and the kidnapping of their priest chaplain, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest from India, is a horrific reminder that we live in a fallen world. ISIS is a clear and real threat and what is happening to Christians in the Middle East is simply genocide.
With this in mind, may God richly bless the U.S. House of Representatives for its wisdom and courage this past week. On March 15, 2016, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to declare that Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria, increasing pressure on the Obama administration to follow suit. In a unanimous 393-0 vote, the House resolution comes just days before the State Department is legally mandated by Congress to determine whether Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) persecution of minorities in Iraq and Syria – Christians, Yazidis, Sunni Kurds and Shiite Muslims – constitutes genocide.
“What is happening in Iraq and Syria is a deliberate, systematic targeting of religious and ethnic minorities. Today, the House unanimously voted to call ISIS’s atrocities what they are: a genocide. We also will continue to offer our prayers for the persecuted,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said in a statement.
Now, after some delay, even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that atrocities carried out by the Islamic State group against Yezidis, Christians and other minorities were genocide, the first U.S. declaration of genocide since Sudanese actions in Darfur in 2004.
“We must recognize and hold the perpetrators accountable,” Kerry said in a March 17 statement that included a litany of atrocities such as rape and murder. He said Christians often were given the choice of converting to Islam or death, which was a choice between two types of death.
Darkness surrounds us. Yet Christ is our Light! Perhaps more than ever, we need the realization, in the midst of all the tragedy that surrounds us, that the battle is already won – Christ is the victor over sin and death.
As we celebrate this Easter Sunday, aware of the darkness, yet encouraged and strengthened by the Light, perhaps our final words should come from Saint Augustine of Hippo from his Commentary on the Gospel of John:
“The Lord tells us: I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. In these few words he gives a command and makes a promise….”
As Others See It
“This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
— Final Words of the Gospel According to John