Speaking the Unspeakable

Whether in season or out of season, it falls upon any people who believe in objective truth and values to speak the unspeakable. What is or is not comfortable or politically correct, fashionable or unfashionable can neither postpone nor mitigate the timing or the urgency with which the message is delivered. In an age in which the taking of offense – and the fear of causing it – becomes an excuse for silence, Christians cannot fail to both live and proclaim the Christmas message that God’s peace extends to all people of good will.

We have just completed the Christmas season, wishing peace to those close to us and often perhaps even those with whom we are less familiar or personally bonded. If we believe that Jesus is Immanuel – God-with-us – then we cannot tolerate manifestations of violence or repression of human rights in any form, no matter when or where they may occur.

No Boundaries on Extent of Concern

In a world as technologically connected as ours, when a mere photograph can set off waves of reaction thousands of miles away, there is no longer any “over there” for us to set boundaries on the extent of our concern for all who suffer from state-sanctioned violence or oppression.

Time and again, within the memory of the living, we have witnessed the selective attention of the media in more than one instance of national and international significance. Right now, there is the so-called “Arab Spring” transpiring in the Middle East. It is time for us to show camaraderie and to pray for the safety of our Christian brothers and sisters whose fate has become progressively more ominous since the onset.

From two million Christians in Iraq during the time when Saddam Hussein was in power – some 20 years ago – there are now less than 400,000. It is, practically speaking, an ethnic cleansing, which is being done brutally and with horrifying consequences to both the culture and, most obviously, to the people themselves. What is more, it is a silent ethnic cleansing which nobody speaks of, nobody wants to touch. It is much more convenient to speak of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nobody is willing to speak of the persecution of Christians as ethnic cleansing and, to an extent, genocide.

What goes on today in Syria and what goes on with the Copts in Egypt does warrant our attention. We should pray for them and keep them in our heart. When we think of them, it should break our hearts and the heart of anyone of any faith who has an historical context from which to view genocide, or even from having been treated unjustly through personal experience, for merely being a member of a given race, ethnic group, nationality or sub-culture.

We cannot fail to remember the people who have already been butchered! We have in mind an image – one of many which can be found on YouTube – of the Egyptian troops driving their vehicles over the protestors. It is a horrifying picture of what is going on today in modern-day Egypt and other areas of that region. If any seed of hope is ever to sprout, it will surely be choked off by the thorns wherever violence reigns.

Though, in all honesty, Christians cannot claim to have been immune, historically speaking, from the temptation to resort to violence in the name of the Cross. It is imperative that Catholic theologians seize the opportunity to analyze the impact of religion in the current international conflicts and re-examine the concept of “just war” in the light of our current experience.

We cannot, however, overemphasize that the prayer of all Christians – and people of good will – is essential for the conversion of hearts which, as the Christmas message reminds us, is the ultimate foundation for peace.