These are difficult times for people of faith. Many, especially youth, are abandoning their parents’ churches by the thousands. One even hears of individuals in Europe asking to be “debaptized.” The term refers to removal from a parish’s baptismal records. American Christians are facing mounting pressure to conform to the antichrist spirit that has invaded politics and society at large. Antisemitism, mainly targeted at traditional Judaism, is on the rise. What can believers do? What do the Scriptures call people of faith to do when persecution comes?
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:14)
St. Paul provides us with a concrete response to persecution. We understand what bless those who persecute you means. But what does St. Paul mean when he calls the Christian communities of Rome to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep? There is a lot of suffering beyond the borders of our Western countries. In areas such as Latin America, Asia, and Africa, Christians are facing more than mere pressure to yield to evil ideologies. They are being harassed, arrested, tortured, and even killed.
Under its current dictatorial president, Daniel Ortega, the Central American nation of Nicaragua is facing fierce religious persecution. According to a National Catholic Register report, Bishop Rolando Alvarez was recently hit with false charges of “conspiracy,” “spreading false news,” and “damaging the Nicaraguan government and society.” This is only the latest attack. Nicaragua’s leftist authoritarian government has been waging a five-year war against Catholic Church leadership and the Faithful. All this because the Church has consistently denounced the Ortega government’s human rights abuses.
Chinese Christians of various denominations are victims of similar government oppression. A number of Evangelical missionaries have faced arrest and torture. The Catholic Church in China is under constant surveillance. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which basically comprises the government, established an officially approved “Catholic” leadership, yet the Faithful maintain an underground Church loyal to the Vatican.
In Africa, Nigerian Christians, both Catholic and those of other denominations, face brutal violence at the hands of Boko Haram, a Muslim terrorist faction. Muslim Fulani tribesmen likewise conduct attacks on Nigerian Christians. The government, headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani, does little to protect its Christian citizens.
Let us take our cue from St. Paul who exhorts the Faithful to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. During this time of uncertainty for the American Faithful, let us pray constantly for the nations that are suffering. When anger at the thought of a supposedly Catholic president who is so violently pro-abortion starts to overwhelm us, let us remember Nicaragua, Nigeria, and China. When fear of repression at the hands of our employers, friends, and even members of our own families becomes too painful, let us think with love of the other and pray for the World.