(Mat 5:11-12) Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.
POPE FRANCIS: “It seems that the awareness of the value of human life has been lost; it seems that the person does not count and can be sacrificed to other interests. And all of this, unfortunately, with the indifference of many.”
AINA: The Persecution of Christians in Iraq Is Untold Story By Georgie Anne Geyer
Avidly reading and watching the news, from ISIS to Ebola recently, I have been repeatedly surprised by the absence of one rather important word: Christian.
In all the innumerable words and pictures that have told the misery-ridden stories of these two sagas, almost none have attempted to tell the story of Christianity being wiped out, usually viciously, in the very sands in which Christ and the Bible were born.
And this is strange, indeed, for Christianity remains the world's largest religion, with 2.18 billion adherents, or a third of the global population.
Consider first the American doctor Kent Brantly, whose work confronting Ebola in Nigeria resulted in being infected himself. He became the very symbol of the disease when he was flown back to the U.S. and was healed at Emory University Hospital. Dr. Brantly is an impassioned member of the medical wing of Samaritan's Purse, the Protestant overseas missionary group led by Billy Graham's son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, and yet I never saw him referred to as a Christian missionary.
After he had recovered, Dr. Brantly spoke to other members of the group, expressing his Christian faith, saying: "I will never grow tired of talking of this. I'm going to keep telling my story, so I can remember what God has done in my life."
Yet, it is not only in the Ebola story, which has primarily spread its poison across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea on the northwest coast of Africa, but also in the story of ISIS, the Islamic State, in Iraq and Syria that the Christian element has been ignored.
For days after ISIS seemingly came out of nowhere to ride across the sands of Iraq in tanks and trucks, ravaging everything in sight, the story seemed to be about their persecution of a religious group rare to Iraq, the Yazidis.
An ancient group with touches of Zoroastrianism, this people were driven by the ISIS zealots to a lone mountain, where they survived thanks to American bombs and Kurdish fighters.
The strange thing here is that the Yazidis, one of many fascinating minority religious groups in Iraq (another one still baptizes new believers in the name of "John the Baptist"), were neither as numerous as Iraqi Christians nor more persecuted. ISIS had been going house to house in Christian neighborhoods in northern Iraq marking doors to identify the residents as Christians, to be moved out and/or destroyed.
Almost nothing has been reported with regard to this persecution, although the Christians (like the earlier Jewish community, which was sent to Israel) were a large group. Pre-2003, the Christian population of Iraq was about 1.5 million or 5 percent of the population, according to The Economist; today it has fallen to under 400,000, and is falling every day.
I have surely missed articles on Christianity's demise in both the Holy Land and the Mesopotamian plains from which Abraham, the father of all the great Middle Eastern religions, sprang; but I do read six major papers daily and scour the press regularly. Ironically, during this time, the most complete and moving article on the media's silence has been from Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, in The New York Times.
"Historians may look back at this period and wonder if people had lost their bearings," Lauder wrote.
"Few reporters have traveled to Iraq to bear witness to the Nazi-like wave of terror that is rolling across that country. The United Nations has been mostly mum. World leaders seem to be consumed with other matters in this strange summer of 2014. There are no flotillas traveling to Syria or Iraq. ... Why doesn't the slaughter of Christians seem to activate their social antennas?"
But where are the words that should be coming from the heads of the Methodist church, from the Presbyterians, from the Episcopalians? The pope has rent his conscience over the persecution of the Christians in both Iraq and the West Bank, but where are the other Catholic leaders, much less the accomplished scholars from the various divinity schools?
In America, most articles about the Catholic church focus on pedophile priests and the new pope. And the word "Protestant," a movement that gave birth to modern economic capitalism, human equality and the constitutional construction of modern states, is virtually never seen in the media.
If the word Protestant is not heard here, then perhaps one should not be surprised when one day it becomes as rare as the Chaldeans, the Melkite Greek Catholics, the Syrian Orthodox, the Nestorians or the Assyrian Church of the East, only a few of the churches that have constituted the rich Christian tradition in what was once the true world of the Bible.
ACN: ACN aid for Iraq
VATICAN RADIO: Chaldean Abp: a Mideast without Christians?
CNA: 'Don’t abandon us' – Church in Mosul 'no longer exists'
The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Discretion
92. A hermit said this about evil thoughts, 'I beg you, my brothers, control your thoughts as you control your sins.'
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