thoughts and observations on the daily readings
Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
Readings may be found here
Christians around the world experience intense persecution – sometimes by governments and sometimes resulting from prejudice or mob violence. John Allen documented the extensive nature of the suffering in his book, The Global War on Christians. In North Korea entire families are sent to death camps for the crime of possessing a bible. In Nigeria and Indonesia, mob violence regularly sees christians attacked and churches and schools burned. In China, even in pandemic, the government continues to arrest christians and demolish churches. In Saudi Arabia it is a crime to possess a rosary. The Turkish government routinely forbids christians to repair churches after they have been attacked by mobs. Coptic christians in Egypt are denied access to education, housing, and employment. The list of the way in which Christians face violence, denial of rights, and mistreatment goes on. In countries like the US, we do not see this kind of persecution, but we certainly have felt the rising tide of condemnation and rejection by cultural elites.
This is not to say that christians are the only group that suffers injustice. Nor would I deny that there are times and places where christians have done the persecuting. But it is important to acknowledge the very real suffering of our brothers and sisters and to recall that persecution has been a constant in one form or another throughout Christian history. It begins, of course, with the Lord Himself – rejected, reviled, put to death for no other crime than His ministry of compassion and healing. Despite the danger, of which He is very well aware, Jesus consistently and courageously proclaims the truth of His identity. As the Johannine passage puts it today: “He testifies to what He has seen and heard.”
The passage from the Acts reminds us that the same persecution provoked by the preaching of the Lord Himself arises in the experience of those who preach in His Name. Today, the Apostles are made to stand before a hostile Sanhedrin. And indeed they do stand up, proclaiming their faith boldly, knowing the risks.
These models of courageous testimony challenge us to stand up – to stand up for brothers and sisters enduring terrible suffering, to stand up for the sanctity of all human life, to stand up and witness to our faith in Jesus Christ. Do not fear rejection, do not worry about what others will think or say, do not count the cost, just stand up!