Blog & Pastor Letters

The Cross of Jesus and Persecuted Christians

08-30-2020From the Parish Administrator’s DeskRev. Victor C. Yakubu

The year 2014 witnessed greater persecution against Christians around the world. It is not entirely new that Christians are persecuted for their faith but in the past few years, we have seen an upward surge unprecedented in recent history. In 2020, the level of persecution has reached a new high especially in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. According to Open Doors, a US-based agency serving persecuted Christians worldwide, the persecution of Christians doubled in 2013. In its report, it says that Christianity as the largest faith in the world with 2.2 billion followers, which is about 32% of the world population, faces hostility in 111 countries. While there are persistent internal tensions with the second-largest religion, Islam, it fiercely faces restrictions in ultra-conservative countries, which do not favor another state religion. In all, Christians faced persecution that saw the birth of many martyrs simply for their faith as Christians in 2013. This situation prompted the Vatican representative to the United Nations, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to voice out his concerns to the UN Human Rights Council. According to him, every year over 100,000 Christians is violently killed because of their faith. The rank of those persecuted cuts across all ranks of the Church hierarchy from missing bishops kidnapped nuns, abducted priests too numerous lay followers suffering martyrdom in the hands of their dangerous persecutors.

The events of 2014 are scary. As the world achieves greater breakthroughs in science and technology, the evils against humanity continue to persist. Jesus in the gospel says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” During Calvary, Jesus’ the cross was heavy, and no amount of time has made it lighter. Rather, it has become heavier over the centuries. As a priest coming from Nigeria, a land under persecution, I remember my own share of persecution when I had to risk it all to save myself and those entrusted to me as their shepherd. I know what it means to face persecution. In 2000 I watched a burning town with lots of crowds wailing towards their deaths. It is difficult to imagine the pains that Christians undergo in lands where they are a minority. Twice I saw death, thrice I survived it. I suffered victimization for bearing a Christian name. Christian communities suffer collective victimization such as essential common services like clean water, clinics, schools, etc. The story is tough to relate when I remember that there are millions of Christians Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A The Cross of Jesus and Persecuted Christians Rev. Victor C. Yakubu, Parochial Administrator around the world whose daily routine is first to survive before you talk of any essentials. In 2020, the persecution in Nigeria has not halted. Christians need prayers more than any other time in their history. There are abundant Christian populations around the world that are weakened by the rise in terrorism, which, unfortunately, does not seem to be dissipating into the unknown future. Of the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide, the Catholics form about 1.2 billion. As the largest body of Christians worldwide under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Church has continuously identified itself with persecuted Christians offering glimmers of hope. I am a direct testimony of the sacrifices of unknown faces for a persecuted Church. The number of social services offered by the Church around the world cannot be underrated for the succor they bring to neglected communities, victimized persons, and Christians subjected under so much stress. The Prophet Jeremiah says it all, “All the day I am an object of laughter, every one mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.” The upward surge in persecution of Christians often leaves scars and wounds that no one can heal, only God alone. My ministry in the United States has given me another view of religious freedom and the enforcement of the rule of law. However, there are dark forces wanting to upturn the freedoms of Americans and render ineffective under obnoxious leaderships. This should not be allowed to happen. While the West has had its share of persecution, if we view 9/11 in that regard, then we can imagine the plight of helpless Christians around the globe with no might to defend themselves. To get a wider picture of this, read John L. Allen, Jr.’s book The Global War on Christians(2013). The book paints a bloody picture of Christian persecution under oppressive leadership. St. Paul’s admonition to the Romans is appropriate for us; “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” The “sacrifice” I see here is support for the Church militant, those suffering Christians, by our prayers and by our unified voice against the enemy. Despite the persecution of Christians around the world, we should not forget that conversion of souls still happens in impossible locations. It is another year and the persecution of Christians may not abate soon but let us hope for better days ahead by singing with the Psalmist, “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” The cross is a symbol of pain, but it is also a symbol of victory over dark forces. Keep smiling