The Catholic Thing
The Persecuted Church: 2012 Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 23 January 2013

For some years, I have had the privilege of serving as Chairman of Aid to the Church in Need U.S.A., a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians. In this position, I see plenty of data describing anti-Christian acts. Here’s a rundown of some 2012 incidents in Muslim nations that have received insufficient media attention:

Egypt:  For the 13 million Christians in Egypt, the “Arab Spring” is turning into the “Arab Winter.” Since the Muslim brotherhood emerged victorious in the presidential election, they are under constant threat of physical violence and economic hardship.

In August 2012, for instance, 120 Coptic families fled from the village of Dahshur, south of Cairo, following a dispute between a Coptic tailor and his Muslim customer. The tailor’s house was burned to the ground and the customer severely injured. Muslims seeking revenge also burned down a church and drove Christians from their homes.

Bishop Kyrillos, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assuit, warned the new government, “The new constitution should be for all Egyptians not just one group.” He underscored the right of Christians to participate in the creation of a new Egypt.

Reacting to the threats of Muslim Brotherhood militias to Christians demonstrating against President Morsi’s proposed constitution, Father Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Bishops, did not mince his words: “Whenever Islam becomes politicized it automatically turns into a fascist dictatorship. Then comes the impending threat that sharia in its most fundamental form will be introduced.”

Church officials fear that there will be a mass Christian exodus from Egypt because wording of sections of the constitution are open to fundamentalist interpretations that deny religious liberty.

Bosnia-Herzegovina:  Eighteen years after the end of the war in the Balkans, discrimination against Catholics is still rampant. Confiscated Church real estate has not been returned. Catholic parishes and homes are denied electricity. Priests are refused medical care despite a Vatican accord with Bosnia, which provides for it.

With more and more Saudi Arabian extremists immigrating to Bosnia and opening businesses, abuse of Catholics, particularly nuns wearing habits, has significantly increased. Sister Ivanka, Bosnian Provincial Superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, notes, “every day life is becoming increasingly difficult in general.” Nuns travel in pairs out of fear of abuse and they are turned away or harassed at local shops. At one bakery, according to Sister Ivanka, several sisters had this experience: “Although the loaves were in plain sight, the proprietor claimed he was out of bread. . . . He simply did not want to sell it to a Catholic nun.”

Cardinal Vinko Pulic, Archbishop of Sarajevo, reported last year to Aid to the Church in Need that, “the growing process of Islamization in Bosnia-Herzegovina is being funded by radicals in the Middle East.” In recent years, over seventy new mosques were built in Sarajevo with Saudi oil-dollars.

Tens of thousands of Catholics were killed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and since then a majority has fled. Today, there are approximately 450,000 down from 835,000.

      Egyptian Coptic Christians in protest against violence

Albania:  Orthodox Christians represent 20 percent of Albania’s population and Catholics 10 percent. Young Imams trained in Turkey and Saudi Arabia increasingly threaten both. These scholars demand a “pure, strict Islam” and promote building only Islamic schools. That attitude, plus widespread corruption and unclear property rights, has halted construction of chapels, churches, rectories, and parochial schools.

Syria:  Christians throughout this war-torn nation are being targeted and driven from their homes. Bishop Antoine Audo, S.J. of Aleppo recounts that after religiously motivated violence in the Christian quarter of the City of Homs, which has been the home to one of Syria’s largest Christian populations, there “was a mass exodus of almost all of the faithful, more than 120,000.” He predicts that Christians will be targeted and driven away in Damascus and Aleppo as well: “The fear of Christians is particularly strong. We are a minority. Always we are threatened.”

Pakistan:  In January 2012, without warning, the Punjab government ordered bulldozers onto land owned by the Catholic diocese since 1887 and demolished a church, a girl’s school, and homes for the poor, elderly, and homeless.

The ordinary, Bishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, accused the government of a “very brutal act of injustice” and “carrying out a criminal act of land-grabbing.”

Dr. Paul Bhatti, brother of Pakistan’s assassinated Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, has called on the international community to help Christians there. Dr. Bhatti, like his martyred brother, is a Catholic and points out that new blasphemy laws, as well as growing intolerance and fanaticism, has led to an increase in arbitrary actions against many of the nation’s 1.2 million Catholics.

The near total silence internationally towards these situations across the Middle East is deeply disturbing and bodes ill for the future. The patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church in Beirut, Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III, recently told Aid to the Church in Need:

Permit me to speak quite frankly. There’s a lot of hypocrisy in all this. For many [EU] governments it’s merely a matter of economic interests. They don’t really care about the fate of the Christians in the Middle East. Otherwise, they would advocate equality before the law and the observance of human rights for all, including in those countries where the so-called Arab Spring has not taken place. . . .This is not a matter of taking sides for or against Assad or some other potentate in the region. It’s a matter of equal rights for all. It’s a matter of the primacy of human rights and not the primacy of one religion. . . .I said it to the government in Paris and I’ll say it to you:  Fundamentalist Islam does not want a dialogue on equal terms in the long run. If the EU were serious about its human rights principles, they would openly take up the cause of the future of younger generations in the region.
George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (9)Add Comment
written by debby, January 23, 2013
Thank you, Mr. Marlin, for this rarely reported news.
We must pray, fast, pray, trust, love, pray, pray, pray
that we do not succumb to an anger that gives birth to hate for these our enemies, and that we do not turn away from these our brothers and sisters lying by the side of the road, beaten and left for dead, as we go our way in our busy lives.
I needed this reminder today as I face the everyday annoyances and inconvenient hurdles of life here is what is STILL a Free America- albeit a decaying America. My gratitude to God for all His care must increase and my habit of complaining must decrease.
written by Carl, January 23, 2013
You forgot Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, and Vietnam to name a few.
written by Daniel, January 23, 2013
Catholics in America, at the least, must BE Catholic. We are not first Americans, Californians, or fans of the Broncos. We are Catholic first and foremost, and our faith must be first every day. Our faith must not be a second thought.
written by Chris in Maryland, January 23, 2013
I thank Mr. Marlin for speaking about the persecution, and Debby for her reminder about our proper attitude toward our enemies.

Mr. Marlin's article is remarkable, in part, because so many Catholics and Catholic insitutions prefer not to even acknowledge the persecution that is going on in the world around them.

The preference for silence about persecution of Christians reveals a lot about us as individuals, about those "steering" our parishes, about our Bishops, and their "Conference," and our "Catholic Universities." Per Beatrix Potter - it seems it might "disturb the repose of the tea party."

I have experienced repeatedly the individual refusal to even contemplate the suffering of fellow-Christians being persecuted. I have heard adults repsond in words like this: "I don't wnat to think about that, it's too negative."

At the parish level, I think I can remember only once in my life (I am 56) hearing a prayer of the faithful for persecuted Christians. But every Sunday, I'm pretty sure that most of us get to hear homogenized mush in the "Prayer of the Faithful, such as "...That world leaders choose peace and renounce war...."

Perhaps individual U.S. Bishops have spoken out about the persecution, because there are great Bishops among us...but if they have...I don't know who they are...and I read Catholic wen news daily.

And what from the great US Conference of Bishops, and their bureacracy, the USCCB - silence - ho-hum. No instruction to the parishes to awaken the faithful to attend to this urgent need. Too negative - I suppose.

And what of our illustrious "Catholic Colleges & Universities," our "Catholic intelligenstia?" Persecution? No room on the crowded agenda I peace, social justice, GLBT awareness...there are only so many hours in a day...
written by Joe Dirt, January 23, 2013
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

written by DS, January 23, 2013
Chris in MD, you are completely off base.

In a few minutes on the web, I found public statements by Cardinals Dolan, Rigali, George, Wuerl, and Archbishops Chaput and Gomez bringing the persecution of Christians (in the US and abroad) to light.

And perhaps more surprisingly, people and institutions that regularly get their orthodoxy questioned on this site have also spoken out:
- Sr. Pat Farrell - LCWR
- Pax Christi
- Georgetown University faculty member Timothy Shah speaking at a Notre Dame workshop on church persecution
- From the heart of secular Europe, Chancellor Merkel of Germany (just last week): "Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world."
- The USCCB, December 2011: "The U.S. bishops extended their prayerful solidarity “to all persecuted persons throughout the world,” sending letters to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem regarding the Church’s plight in the homeland of Jesus and to the Church in Nigeria in the wake of a Christmas attack."

If there is not enough going on at your parish, Chris, I suggest you join the noble voices of the right and left highlighted above and make some noise.
written by Ann, January 23, 2013
So many martyrs ..... may they be the seeds of renewal of the Church in the West (and our wicked politicians want Turkey in the EU!).

Three times in Europe, the Rosary has defeated the Mohammedan menace, most recently in 1683 at the gates of Vienna (which is why they chose 9/11 for their outrageous attack). They are too rich for us to defeat them in battle; that means is the only one we have.
written by Chris in Maryland, January 24, 2013

Perhaps I'm not making my point as clearly as I could have.

Per individual Bishops, I allowed that perhaps some had spoken of the persecution of Christians, knowing there are great Bishops out there, e.g., as you mentioned, among others, Chaput.

Sad to say, the quote from the USCCB makes my point: the issue at hand is not about "all persecuted persons." The statement is devoid of meaning because it isn't taking a stand on a real has no power to stir because it's diluted to an abstraction, like "world peace." I can assure you that nothing in the 2 parishes in my area is going to be said about Christian persecution...because it never has...and USCCB statements like the one you just mentioned are indicative of the problem.

Perhaps you may not know, but LCWR has, per their own representatives, "moved beyond Christ," so nothing they do has any standing re: Catholicism.

Your quote of Chancellor Merkel, which I am very aware of, makes my point by contrast - here's a politician voicing something publicly, effectively being heard, and that doesn't have the same analog inside The U.S. Church.

As to Professor Shah at Georgetown, I commend him. But my point is about the institutional force of U.S. Church institutions...there is no unified voice lifted in force across Catholic colleges or Universities...they are busy with profane, un-Catholic and anti-Catholic things.

In closing, my point is that Bishops and institutions can speak effectively with unified force if they choose...they clearly DO NOT DO THIS.

Thus the "call to action" at the parish level will indeed produce noise. I take it that, reading your list of "noble voices," that nothing of consquence is going on in this amtter in your Diocese, or your parish, either?
written by John VN, February 02, 2013
Why not mentioned Vietnam. The Church in Vietnam has been severely persecuted by communists. No sufferings in the world can be compared with those caused by Red devils: communists. Please be well informed.

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