A troubling story

“If the Tiber rises too high, or the Nile too low, the remedy is always feeding Christians to the lions.”
― Tertullian

“Bless them that persecute you.’ If our enemy cannot put up with us any longer and takes to cursing us, our immediate reaction must be to lift up our hands and bless him. Our enemies are the blessed of the Lord. Their curse can do us no harm. May their poverty be enriched with all the riches of God, with the blessing of Him whom they seek to oppose in vain. We are ready to endure their curses so long as they redound to their blessing.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

(Riproduzione dal “Sacrdmentarium Gelasianum–Francia nord-orientale Bibloioteca” Apostolica Vaticana vii secolo–a little something I picked up on a trip to Rome from a wonderful shop run by a group of monks–the shop sells art work form a variety of worldwide Catholic missions)

Now I don’t usually wish to dabble too much in current news or hot button issues or even any sort of political mess here in cookieland—as sadly that is what most news and current events consist of anyway. . . a bunch of mess! However, that being said, it is this particular story, of which I’ve included below, having read yesterday, which has left me deeply troubled.

Like the story’s author, I typically go about my day often irritated by the little issues in life which truly equate to nothing more than small inconveniences in a busy hectic life. The testing of our patience as we wait in this line or that, be it at the grocery store, the super sized discount store, the DMV to renew a drivers license (at last word, someone told me that they waited in line for 5 hours to renew their license– having the necessary papers in hand–proof of birth, residence, self. . .yada, yada, yada—but I digress as that is a post for another day), standing in line at the Post Office is in itself a test of patience, as I wrote a post on this very issue just a few weeks ago.

And so the litany goes on.

We tend to let these little annoyances and inconveniences really get under our skin, that is until we pause long enough to read a story such as the one below. Quickly we are jolted back to the reality of life and of the struggles and hardships which our fellow kith and kin are reeling in and with worldwide. My irritation at standing in a line at a store suddenly pales in comparison to these other raging world issues.

Case in point, the story below.
This is a tale of the ignored and forgotten current persecution of Christian believers.

This is not a story of the ‘feeding them to the lions’ sort of persecution, but rather a tale of a more sinister means of attack. This, as the standards of torture have evolved to a much more insidious and evil practice. Of course the age old standards of beatings and rape still stand up against the test of time but it is now, the psychological attack, which is comparable to, if not exceeding, the assaults to the human body.

There was a time when most countries in the free world would raise up in arms over the intolerance, tortures and murders which are occurring on a daily basis—-but sadly that is no longer the case.

Whether it is due in part to the deep secularization occurring in our countries or to the laissez- faire attitude many have for “religious Christians” –such stories will continue, as they are currently, to repeat themselves as there just doesn’t seem to be anyone who will take a stand against such barbarism.

This is why I am opting to share the story. “If not me, then who– if not now, then when” is the phrase that is echoing in my mind. Why do we not rise up to stop these sorts of atrocities?! We will quickly pick up a placard and march concerning gay rights, abortion, capital punishment, drinking and driving, freedom of speech, the stopping of wars. . .but we won’t say anything about Christian men, woman and children who are being tortured and murdered every day for their beliefs. We won’t speak up to stop Christians from being tortured and killed but we will quickly speak loud and clear over the likes of Hobby Lobby and their providing or not providing contraceptions for their employees.

What is wrong with this picture?!
I’ll let you explain it to me. . .

Christians in captivity — the agony of waiting
By Lela GilbertPublished March 24, 2014 FoxNews.com
Patience is in short supply these days. Despite our instant communication capabilities, just about everyone is waiting for something. The phone doesn’t ring. The cable guy never shows up. A check is always “in the mail.”

Last week I found my own patience stretched into a thin membrane by a pile of complaints – thankfully small ones. But mostly I was struck by the inevitable silence of waiting. When we’re hoping for answers, no news is far from good news.

When we’re hoping for answers, no news is far from good news.
And in fact, it was bad news that distracted me from my own woes as a headline scrolled down my iPhone. “Asia Bibi appeal hearing postponed.”

Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian, and her name is familiar to those of us who follow international human rights. Her story is almost unbelievable – and all too true:

“In June 2009, Asia was involved in an argument with a group of Muslim women with whom she had been harvesting berries, after the other women became angry at her for drinking the same water as them. She was subsequently accused of insulting the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies, and was arrested and imprisoned. In November 2010, a Sheikhupura judge sentenced her to death. If executed, Asia would be the first woman in Pakistan to be lawfully killed for blasphemy.”

Many have spoken out on Asia Bibi’s behalf, including Pope Benedict. Two prominent Pakistanis, Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Christian minorities, and Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab, were assassinated in 2011 for opposing Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws on her behalf.

Nonetheless, since 2009, this falsely accused woman has been on death row in a filthy prison cell, wondering if and when her death sentence will enforced. She longs for husband and five children. Day and night, in squalid surroundings, she fights off her fears, endures physical illness and prays.

Unsure if she will live or die, Asia Bibi waits.

Another story emerged last week from Iran, about US-citizen and former Muslim Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year sentence because he “undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and … attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.”

Despite urgent requests for medical care – his body is internally wounded from abominable prison conditions including beatings and torture – he was denied treatment. Eventually, presumably under pressure from several international organizations’ outcry, Abedini was taken to a medical center, unshackled and even permitted a brief visit from a family member.

What happened after that? Once the encouraging proceedings passed, Abedini was still in pain, still bleeding from internal injuries. He remains hospitalized but untreated. Like Asia Bibi, he is the focus of much international prayer and non-governmental activism. Even the EU has spoken up, as has President Obama. But Abedini is entirely unsure about the future. Will he see his wife and two small children again? Will he live or die? He has been behind bars since September 26, 2012.

The family watches and keeps faith. Concerned people post and tweet and pray.

And day in, day out, Saeed Abedini waits.

Other captives are waiting, along with their loved ones, in Egypt. According to my friend and colleague, Coptic scholar Samuel Tadros, the big stories of church burnings and murdered Christians have diminished somewhat under Cairo’s new military regime.

But less publicized evils remain. Most notably, kidnappings are rampant. On March 20, MidEast Christians News reported that two young women, 17 and 18, were abducted in separate incidents just days before.

Coptic World observed, “Coptic children or adults abducted at gunpoint and held (and sometimes killed or forced to convert to Islam) by “unknown persons” in exchange for money—are on the rise in Egypt…”

Muslim kidnappings of Christians are also taking place in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and beyond. Captives are often raped, beaten, forcibly married, starved and eventually, if financial terms aren’t met, murdered.

Meanwhile, the victims’ loved ones worry, weep and console each other. Of course, like all believers they pray, recalling the ancient promise:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Is 40:31).

So hoping against hope, they wait.

Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world and abuses have surged exponentially in recent years. At the same time, the United States government, once a global champion of religious freedom, offers dwindling intervention.

Reliance solely on the nations of the world to act, diplomatically or politically – with rare and notable exceptions – will likely result in the longest wait of all.

And waiting is agonizing.

Lela Gilbert