Violence against Christians is a reality that runs through the whole history of Christianity, starting with Christ Himself, from His birth until the day of His crucifixion. The apostles were the victims of serious violence. The Son of God had announced to His disciples that they would never be at peace on this earth.

The only way to win this great combat is union with God. Christians will never succeed in overcoming the challenges of the world by appealing to political tools, human rights, or respect for religious liberty. The only true rock for the baptised is prayer and the encounter with Jesus Christ. Men whose strength is in prayer are unsinkable. Jesus began His public ministry with forty days of prayer in the desert, and He finished His life with a cry that is a final prayer: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Lk 23:34).

The violence against Christians is not just physical; it is also

  • political,
  • ideological, and
  • cultural:

‘Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Mt 10:28). Many Christians, in Nigeria, in Pakistan, in the Middle East, and elsewhere, courageously undergo this physical martyrdom daily, in order to be faithful to Christ, without ever giving up their freedom of soul.

The persecution is more refined when it does not destroy physically but demolishes the teaching of Jesus and of the Church and therefore, the foundations of the faith by leading souls astray. By this violence, some people try to neutralise and depersonalise the Christians, so as to dissolve them in a fluid society without religion and without God. There is no greater disdain than indifference. This insidious war springs from a diabolical hatred of Jesus Christ and of His true witnesses.

I can still hear the powerful echo of John Paul II in Lyon (October 4, 1986), warning us about the danger of an environment that may imprison us in forgetfulness, turn us away from the faith, and leave us defenceless against the fumes of rampant idolatry:

‘Of course, today you are not thrown to the beasts; no one tries to put you to death because of Christ. But is it not necessary to acknowledge that another sort of trial surreptitiously affects Christians? 

Currents of thoughts, life-styles, and sometimes even laws opposed to the true meaning of man and of God undermine the Christian faith in the lives of individuals, families, and society. 

Christians are not mistreated, they even enjoy all sorts of freedoms, but is there not a real risk that their faith will be, so to speak, imprisoned by an environment that tends to relegate it to the domain of an individual’s private life?  

Nowadays there is a massive indifference among many people with regard to the Gospel and the moral behaviour and its demands; is this not a way of sacrificing little by little to the idols of selfishness, luxury, consumption, and pleasure, which are sought without limits and at any price? This form of pressure or seduction could kill the soul without attacking the body

The spirit of evil that opposed our martyrs is still at work. With other means, it continues to seek to turn people away from the faith.’

In the West, this violence is increasingly insidious, especially since it is careful to hide its true face. In the Gospel of John, Christ’s words are plain:

‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 

Remember the word that I said to you, “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my world, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. 

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sinned; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both Me and my Father. It is to fulfil the word that is written in the their law, “They hated me without a cause”‘ (Jn 15:18-25).

Now the refinements of evil are becoming ever more insidious. A man who falls asleep for a moment must take care not to fall into a trap that is so pleasant that it is all the more formidable.

Cardinal Robert Sarah

 

Adapted and edited from Cardinal Robert Sarah ‘God or Nothing – A Conversation on Faith’ Ignatius Press 2015 Pp. 194-196.

This article can be found in Mirror 0316.