Thursday, February 29, 2024

A voice for the voiceless

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AS EVERY LAW STUDENT KNOWS, you can’t plead necessity to a murder charge. It’s no defence that you ate the cabin boy on a lifeboat to avoid starvation though he might have died anyway. And if the lifeboat is overfull and in danger of sinking, it’s the non-essential crew members who must swim for it before the passengers.

But what do we say of the Moslems on the refugee boat from Libya bound for Italy who turned the voyage into a theological debate and then consigned Christians to their Maker in the open sea? Can they plead that God legislated the murder through the medium of Islamic texts – for that is essentially what they did?

It’s nothing new. From the Middle East, to Africa, to Asia, indeed even in Europe and the Americas, the evidence is that Christians are being persecuted and murdered for their faith by Islamists who dare to say they serve God. We think particularly of the Coptic Christians butchered in Libya, the slaughter – just kids – at Garissa University College in Kenya, and only this week reports of beheadings and shootings of Ethiopian Christians. With Holocaust Sunday (April 19) in mind, the evidence is that this persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters is not random but systematic.

What is our response to be? Surely, if we are not with them we are against them. In remaining silent we are complicit in the persecution. As Pope Francis has said, these terrible things call our own humanity into question. Must we remain complacent and silent in the face of evil, in face of men who project upon God their own foulness?

Surely the time has come to raise a crusade of care, a crusade which begins not with swords of steel but of resolve, of protest, of prayer. Let that response be summoned by bells in every Christian parliament, from every tower of our churches and, yes, every minaret worth its name as a place of God.

If that level of courage seems to overwhelm us from the present safety of these shores, then embrace a symbol. Think simply of a boy, a 14-year-old Pakistani kid, Nouman Masih, who this last week was asked “Are you Christian or Moslem?” and who was torched and died a martyr’s death for his answer. To remember him in candles of prayer is something we can all do. It will give him a voice. It may even be the voice of Jesus.

– FR CLIFFORD HALL

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