There’s a raging persecution of Christians going on around the world, and it doesn’t seem to have captured the imagination of the secular press. Our nightly Currents TV program has been reporting on it for months. The same information that we have been reporting is there for everyone, but we seem to be the only ones who consider it big news.
One story in particular hit home this week. A Dutch Jesuit priest was brutally murdered in Syria where he had been working among those suffering from the civil strife there. A couple of months ago, we reported about Father Frans van der Lugt and his ministry in the besieged area of Homs, Syria. The 75-year-old priest refused to leave war-torn Syria, instead staying to help the poor and homeless. He caught our attention after appealing for aid for the people of the besieged city of Homs in a video posted on YouTube in late January.
The U.N. supervised an evacuation of about 1,400 people from Homs in early February; arriving in Jordan, the refugees confirmed Father van der Lugt’s accounts of people, especially young children, starving to death.
Speaking to Catholic News Service by telephone Feb. 6, the Jesuit had said: “There has been no food. People are hungry and waiting for help. No injured people have been allowed to leave. Families have been hoping to get out of the siege and out of the fighting between the two sides.”
The Jesuits said this past Monday that the priest, who had worked in Syria since 1966, had been beaten by armed men and killed with two bullets to the head.
On the same day, it was reported that two Italian priests and a Canadian nun had been kidnapped in Cameroon.
The nun was identified as Sister Gilberte Bissiere, C.N.D., a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame. It is believed that the assailants were members of Boko Haram, an Islamist group based in Nigeria that has been active in the area.
In Queens, at Blessed Sacrament parish, Jackson Heights, the story had an immediate impact for Sister Jane Scanlon, S.N.D., a member of the same order. Although she does not know the victim personally, she is familiar with her from congregational meetings.
The order issued the following statement: “As you, we believe that our prayer supports the people who have been kidnapped and gives them, their families, friends and all of us the courage and strength to go forward.
“Thus, we invite you to widen the circles of prayer and ask your families, friends, persons you accompany and those with whom you work to unite in prayer with us. May God keep all of us in hope.”
In the Middle East, Christian communities are being wiped off the map, forced to flee so that radical Islamists can set up bases of operation from which to attack the West. The list of countries grows, from Syria to Iran, to Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve also seen the results of anti-Christian venom in Egypt, Nigeria and Sudan.
We’ve seen nuns kidnapped and exchanged for political prisoners in Syria. In the same country, the whereabouts of two bishops has been unknown for months.
Where will it stop? How many good people, clergy and laity, must die before the world is willing to say what really is going on here? First, there needs to be recognition of the anti-Christian bias around the world. Then there needs to a resolve to end this hatred.