During the past weeks of Easter, we have seen the apostles celebrating on a happy Palm Sunday, sharing the Passover with their Lord, and having their hopes wiped out as they witnessed His crucifixion.
Then they met a stranger as they were walking along the road to Jerusalem, a stranger who invited them to eat with him. During the meal, their hearts were “burning within them” and they realized their Lord had really risen from the dead. Later, as they prayed together, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they received power to preach just as Jesus had told them they would.
This brings us to the first reading today. The apostles have been out preaching and people have been being added to the church. Now they are in trouble because they have been forbidden to preach in the name of Jesus. However, when queried, Peter and the apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men.” The authorities then became infuriated and wanted to put them to death. The apostles were not put to death at that time, but we know from history and tradition that most did die the death of a martyr for the faith.
Today, our media reports persecution of Christians in various parts of the world. According to Aid to the Church in Need (ANC), a Catholic charity which provides emergency aid and pastoral support in 140 countries, Christian persecution has been sharply on the rise in recent years.
ACN says that around the world “thousands upon thousands of Christians are unjustly detained.” They quote Open Doors, an organization advocating for persecuted Christians, as saying that worldwide, a monthly average of 309 Christians is unjustly imprisoned. In Nigeria alone, 220 Christians are taken into captivity yearly by jihadist groups. In Pakistan, there are reports of girls being kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to Muslim men.
Several scenarios in which Christians are detained because of their faith. That includes prisoners of conscience; arbitrary detention; unfair trial; inadequate prison conditions; torture, and pressure to convert. John Burger - published on 12/02/20.
Like the apostles in the story, do we have the courage to maintain our Christian identity and stand for the Christian values? Let us continue to pray for the missionaries and persecuted Christians as we grow in our relationship with God and one another.
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About Father Pinto Paul, C.S.C.
Father Pinto Paul C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1999, worked with tribal populations in northeast India as a missionary for ten years. In 2010 he came to the US for further studies. While working as a campus minister at Stonehill College, he assisted pastors in local parishes, led seminars and workshops for teachers and students in the US and earned a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Boston College and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Lesley University, Cambridge. He is currently working as the International Director of the Boston-based Holy Cross Family Ministries with missions in 17 countries.