For all Christians, Christmas is one of the most important celebrations of the year. It is a celebration of God being made flesh and entering the world: the welcoming of someone who will be crucified 33 years after his birth, making eternal life possible for humanity. It is a joyous occasion and yet, for many Christians around the world, this Christmas will be anything but.
On Wednesday 22nd November, numerous churches around the world were lit up red to mark an event known as Red Wednesday. This symbolised the numerous Christians around the world, and especially in the Middle East, who are victims of persecution as a result of their religious beliefs. The need for such remembrance has never been more urgent.
This year Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, released a report simply called Persecuted and Forgotten? In this report, they expressed their belief that ‘the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history.’ From country governments right up to the United Nations, the response has been the same as it is with all uncomfortable truths: complete and uncomfortable silence. This has had exceptionally dangerous results, with the report warning that ‘the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East’ were it not for non-governmental Christian action.
With levels of Christian persecution dramatically increasing since 2015, there is an abundance of examples that can be used to illustrate the level of pure evil that they face. It is necessary to list a few of these because the simple fact is that, for whatever reason, the Western media is largely choosing to ignore these realities.
In the diocese of Kafanchan, 998 people have been killed in just five years, with 71 Christian-majority villages being completely destroyed. In October of this year, as Western media bleated that ISIS has finally been defeated, the Islamic terror group killed at least 116 Christian civilians in the Syrian desert-town of Al-Qaryatain. And, of course, very few of us will have forgotten the Palm Sunday bombings of Egyptian churches earlier in 2017 or, indeed, the vicious murder of Blessed Fr Hamel just last year.
Imagine, just for a second, the outcry if the United Nations made sympathetic noises to the plight of refugees, and then turned their back on providing actual aid. We must acknowledge a certain irony in the fact that secular society often accuses Christians of simply offering prayers instead of any practical support, and in the same breath have a disgustingly complacent reaction to this most vicious of evils.
It is immoral to continue to ignore the violence faced by Christians across the globe. From the Middle East to China, Christians are victims of extreme persecution whilst the Western world sits on and watches. Instead of providing the necessities of shelter and medicines, displaced Christians from Mosul and Ninevah arrived in Erbil...and were given tarpaulin.
This year many families, Christian and non-Christian, will celebrate Christmas with one another. Their celebrations will be in complete contrast to that of their Brothers and Sisters, scattered throughout the world, who face the most vicious and violent persecution as a result of their faith. And, to exacerbate this suffering, the majority of the western world are turning their backs.
It’s our duty to ensure that, when it comes to Christmas 2018, we’re not lamenting the same truth as we do this year.