The terrible suffering visited on humanity by the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped the persecution of Christians around the world. Some of the recent headlines read, “Nigerian priests in Indiana diocese carry concern in hearts over homeland;” “Romania marks first national day honoring persecuted Christians;” “China silences persecuted priest ahead of Vatican deal renewal;” “Four Christian women hospitalized after brutal attack in northern India.” The list goes on.
For obvious reasons, we are focused on the news about the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, this has allowed many governments and groups to escalate what Pope Francis has called the Third World War — the persecution of Christians.
While the world is trying to fight a deadly virus that has killed almost 800,000 people worldwide and wrecked the economies of many countries, people are taking advantage of the situation to harass, expel from their homes, jail, and even kill Christians.
We know the words of Jesus in the Gospel: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Following Jesus Christ is not a guarantee of earthly success, as proponents of the “prosperity Gospel” usually claim. Jesus was crucified as a common criminal. Following him always entails the risk of ending up condemned by society.
We are supposed to endure persecution with courage and patience but in no way does that mean we are indifferent
to injustice. While some of us of worry about the signs of religious intolerance we find in America, the religious liberty we enjoy here is unimaginable in most countries of the world.
Our brothers and sisters are being massacred in Nigeria; they are sent to prison or the gallows in Pakistan; churches are being destroyed in China while priests and laypeople are sent to “reeducation camps;” churches are being bombed in Nicaragua; and bishops in Venezuela are harassed by the government. Of course, we need to pray for them.
“How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted?” Pope Francis famously said. “Ask yourselves, do I pray for that brother or sister who’s in difficulty for confessing their faith?”
We believe in the power of prayer, in our duty to pray, and we believe in the power of solidarity. Last month, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced that the beatification of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, will take place on Oct. 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Connecticut. The news reminded me of work the Knights have done defending religious freedom for over a century.
They were indefatigable in their defense of persecuted Christians during the Cristero War in Mexico and under
the Communist regimes during the 20th century. And today, they continue to support and assist victimized Christians around the world.
The Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need is another example of continuous solidarity with oppressed Christians. It provides “pastoral and humanitarian assistance to the persecuted Church around the world.”
We can help our brothers and sisters in need through organizations like the Knights of Columbus, Aid to the Church
in Need, and other groups. We can also help them by asking our elected officials to not turn a blind eye to the suffering of so many Christian and other religious groups around the world.
We can’t allow the coronavirus pandemic — as dramatic as it is — to become a virus of indifference.
The world might be indifferent to the genocidal persecution of Christians from Nigeria to Syria. The politicians might prefer to ignore the suffering of their victims to avoid friction with powerful governments. We still have to stand in prayer and solidarity with the victims.