Terror attacks before Christmas cannot stop peace work
In many places, people looked forward to Christmas with trepidation. Attacks against Christians mounted just before Christmas in three countries: in Nigeria, India and, on the 3rd Sunday in Advent, in southwest Pakistan. In Pakistan, two suicide bombers of the terrorist militia are attacked around 400 Christians in Bethel Memorial Church in the city of Quetta – at least nine people died, more than a dozen were injured, including several children.
In response, the president of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) expressed his concern, “This is a further cowardly attack on defenseless people who only came to attend Mass.” Baron Johannes Heereman condemned the brutal attack and emphasised, “We are mourning together with the victims. However, our prayers will continue. They cannot be shot down, which is why we ask you to pray for peace now with even greater urgency. The God that makes himself small in the manger is a God of life and not one of killing.”
Christmas carolling led to temporary incarceration of Christians in India
On Friday just before the weekend bombing in Pakistan, there was bad news in India as well: in Madhya Pradesh province, Hindu activists in the city of Satna assaulted eight Christian priests and set their vehicle on fire. Thirty seminarians and two priests had been detained the day before and the priests were coming to their aid when they were assaulted. Turmoil had broken out when the seminarians visited a nearby village to sing Christmas carols. As the priest George Mangalappally reported to the Indian portal ucanews.com, an enraged mob accused them of actively converting people to the faith and called the police. According to this online news source, more than 650 attacks against Christians were reported in 2017.
Bomb attack in northeastern Nigeria kills three catechists in the diocese of Maiduguri
Little attention was paid to another piece of news that same week: church media agencies reported that two women approached a catechist to embrace him in front of the church in the Nigerian town of Pulka in the diocese of Maiduguri. Since this was an unusual occurrence, helpers rushed to his aid, at which point the two suicide bombers detonated the explosive. Three catechists were killed, including a father of ten children. Others sustained injuries. Several church sources reported that Islamists had carried out further deadly attacks only the month before. Aid to the Church in Need visited the diocese of Maiduguri this year and met with traumatised victims of violence and persecution there. Several of them were from Pulka.
The Kremlin said information provided by the CIA enabled them to track down and detain a group of Islamic State-linked suspects who were planning to bomb the Kazan Cathedral and other sites in the city.
Unique documentation by the international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need
“The danger is that we get used to such incidents and that this news will not be reported outside of church media. However, the events need to be considered in their respective contexts,” Baron Heerman admonished. “At the moment, Christians all over the world are under pressure as never before.” This is also documented by the world’s only comprehensive and regularly published “Religious Freedom in the World Report”, which is compiled by Aid to the Church in Need.
For many years, the international Catholic pastoral charity has been comparing relevant information from all parts of the world. The data is updated every two years, while that pertaining to Christians is published annually in a second report, “Persecuted and Forgotten?”. “In this report, Aid to the Church in Need tenaciously points out the extraordinary extent and systematic nature of the discrimination and persecution of Christians.” Aid to the Church in Need will publish the next issue of the Religious Freedom in the World Report in 2018. “With this, our pastoral charity is making a statement: the right to religious freedom is non-negotiable. It is a fundamental human right.”
Karla Sponar – ACN International