SOLIDARY WITH THE PERSECUTED
FR. MAREK ŁUCZAK
Refugees from Northern Korea say they witnessed arrests and executions. Victims of the repressions neither had committed any crimes nor belonged to any opposition. Their only blame was faith in Jesus Christ
Every year about 170 thousand Christians are killed in the world. They are the most frequent victims of the Islamic and Hindu extremists. The list of persecutors also includes people supporting atheistic systems, like it is in North Korea.
As it is estimated by organizations helping the Church, the scale of the phenomenon is terrifying. At present, about 100 million people are suffering because of their Christian religion. Three quarters of religious persecutions affect Christ’s believers. According to the reports prepared every year, this tendency is increasing.
Enemies of people and sub-humans
Everything started in 1955. At that time, in Poland there was a socialistic system and the raging atheism was effectively closing doors to religious freedom. It is not necessary to convince anybody to the opinion that Stalinism meant harassments for the Christians, nobody could even dream about printing religious literature, not mentioning the Bible. A Dutch monk thought about founding an organization, thanks to which, among the others, it was possible to smuggle the Holy Scripture to Poland. Brother Andrew gave a dozen millions of copies of the Holy Scripture to the Christians all over the world during a few dozen years. These were the beginnings of the Open Doors.
Today the organization is dealing with documentation of persecutions of Christ’s believers all over the world. According to its members, we do not speak about persecutions only when people are tortured or killed because of their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, in many countries such practices can be seen but in other countries there are less drastic but more painful forms: people lose their work because of Christ and are deprived of means for living.
For 11 years the index of countries in which there are persecutions, is opened by Northern Korea. In this country where atheism is officially binding, there is also an alternative form of religion. It is a worship, nearly divine culture towards the rulers. Every sign of cult not addressed to the Kim dynasty is treated as dangerous and hostile to the state. The driving force of the persecutions is communist pressure and also paranoia of the dictatorship which wants to maintain the authority at any rate.
A report prepared in 2002 for the UNO, says about a few churches in the capital city of the country, and also about ‘family centres of cult’. However, refugees from Korea do not confirm these data which may prove a high conspiracy of believers. According to the data of the Open Doors, it is estimated that the number of the Christians is about 400-500 thousand. They all are treated by the regime as enemies of people and even sub-humans.
The situation is strained not only in Northern Korea but also in the border area. In September 2011 a South-Korean missionary was murdered in China by Northern-Korean agents. Another missionary hardly escaped death. A pastor Kang from Northern Korea was working for the Northern-Korean movement of human rights in China. He was killed there in unknown circumstances. Doubts are raised by the fact that the Chinese government does not reveal an exact report of this case. A car of the pastor from Kanga crashed into a bus and the pastor was killed on the spot.
Exodus nearly biblical
There is also another organization popular in the world, which deals with supporting persecuted Christians. Every year the organization Aid to the Church in Need publishes a special report saying about the most urgent problems of Christ’s believers all over the world. The latest report of 2013 does not give any reasons for optimism. In many countries the situation of the Christians has worsened: this conclusion results from the document ‘Persecuted and forgotten?’ which was presented by the British department of the international Catholic charity organization Aid to the Church in Need during a meeting in the parliament of the Great Britain. The report presents the situation of the Christians in 30 countries, among the others in: Afghanistan, China, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. The situation in various Islamic countries and in the countries with their systems of authoritarianism was discussed in particular.
John Pontifex, a director of the press-informative department in the British organization, summarized the report in the following way: ‘The report concludes that in two thirds countries in which the Christians are persecuted the most, the situation has worsened indisputably. In fact, the survival of the Church in some regions, especially in the Middle East is under question.
In many cases “the Arabic Spring” turned out to be ‘Christian winter’, as it was defined in the report. Although political upheavals brought suffering to the members of all religious communities, great violence and hostiles were experienced mainly by Christian societies. They fell victims to any kind of conflicts: political, economic, social and religious, for example, a conflict between the Sunni and Shittes. As a result, many Christians were forced to exile; the report stated that the exodus is taking on ‘the sizes which are nearly biblical’.
It is easy to get convinced even without reading the report, that the situation in the Middle East is terrifying. For example, pilgrims to the Holy Land know about it. Every year there are less and less Christian citizens in Israel. So, there appears anxiety about the future of Christian souvenirs and churches.
Under the fire from a sect
So, it is difficult to be astonished that establishing a Day of Solidarity with the Persecuted Church was a right thing. Its first celebrations were in the year 2009 and were devoted to the situation of the Christians in India.
This year, the Day of Solidarity is devoted to Nigeria. Why this country? The first attempts of evangelizing Nigeria reach back to the XV century. The first Catholic mission was founded by French missionaries in the South of the country in Lagos in 1868. The population of Nigeria amounts nearly 160 million. There are 45.5 per cent Christians (the Catholics – 13.3 per cent, that is, over 21 million), 45 per cent of the Muslims. Nigeria has 16 seminaries which are open to everybody, regardless of religion. The situation of Nigeria acknowledges religious freedom, including the right for manifesting and proclaiming faith and for changing religion. Most Christians inhabit the Southern part of the country and the Muslims prevail in the North. In 12 States in the North of the country the Muslims introduced the Sharia law which is binding all over the State, and in other 4 States it is binding only partially. The Muslim sect Boko Haram has been doing brutal attacks on the Christians since the year 2010. Despite big deposits of oil, in many regions the Nigerians live on the verge of poverty, and on mining areas – because of the lack of water wells – 70 per cent of population is doomed to drinking contaminated water. 80 per cent of income from the extraction of oil gets to only 15 per cent of the society, because there is much corruption in Nigeria. 32 per cent of the society are the illiterate.
The above information is surely sufficient, to pay attention not only to the situation of the Christians in Nigeria, but also feel co-responsible for the fate of our brothers – co-believers of Christ - through a prayer and also financial aid.