THE Christians — at their best — are a communion of saints. Filipino Christians should feel the anguish of their brethren in Africa and the Middle East–and help them.
The last Holy Week was the most painful in the past decades in terms of the sufferings and martyrdom inflicted on our fellow foster brothers and sisters of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Islamic militants and jihadists.
On Good Friday (April 3) Pope Francis somberly led prayers for persecuted Christians. The day before, on Maundy Thursday the Al Shabaab Islamist militants had attacked the Garissa University in Kenya, killing 147 or more people. At first, the militants killed whoever they saw but later they freed Muslim students and did a turkey shoot of the Christian students.
Pope Francis, after leading the traditional Way of the Cross procession at the ancient Colosseum in Rome last Good Friday, prayed: “We see in you (Jesus) our persecuted brothers, beheaded and crucified because of their faith in you, before our eyes or often with our complicit silence.”
Earlier also on Good Friday, the Holy Father’s self-reproof of “complicit silence” that he directed to all Christians was expressed in St. Peter’s Basilica by the official Preacher of the Pontifical Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa. In the Commemoration of the Passion of Our Lord service, during which Pope Francis had prostrated himself in prayer on the marble floor, Fr. Cantalamessa upbraided the international community for “the disturbing indifference of world institutions and public opinion in the face of all this killing of Christians …”
Among these murders the Vatican’s official household preacher cited the beheading of 22 Egyptian Coptic Christians in February by Islamic State militants in Libya.
The Pope’s annual Easter Sunday “Urbi at Orbi” address to “the City and the World” was somber. He prayed for the persecution of Christians to end and again mourned for the massacred Kenyan university students.
He led the global public in praying, “We ask Jesus, the victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence — and there are many.”
Last Tuesday, after the recitation of the Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) prayer that replaces the Angelus during the Easter season, Pope Francis made an appeal for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
He said, “I hope that the international community does not remain mute and inert in front of such an unacceptable crime, which constitutes an alarming breach in the most basic of human rights… I truly hope the international community does not turn its gaze to the other side.”
Speaking to members of the Shalom Movement –who had held a relay race to raise awareness for persecuted Christians around the world and whose race’s final leg ended in St. Peter’s Square–Pope Francis gave a message that was meant for all Christians to hear:
“Your itinerary on this path is over, but the spiritual journey of intense prayer should be continued by all. [As well as] the concrete participation and tangible help in the defense and protection of our brothers and our sisters, who are persecuted, exiled, killed, decapitated for the sole fact of being Christians.”
We Filipinos have so many problems. But it is also our duty to pray intensely for and do what we can to aid our persecuted fellow children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ abroad.