“Thousand of Christians flee” reads the headline on Page One of the August 8-15 Vatican journal, L’Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed. The story could have emerged from a history of the early Church in Rome. All through history Christianity has been the target of intense hatred and violence by those who claim superiority and lordship.
Of the Emperor Nero’s reign, historian Henri Daniel-Rops wrote, “it was not enough merely to torture, behead or crucify the victims in Nero’s Circus…,” but “Christians were sewn into animal skins and then torn to pieces by the emperor’s mastiffs.” And along the avenues, where Nero was promenading, “torches coated with pitch and resin” were raised aloft, the “torches” being living human beings.
Why? As Pope Francis recently answered: “Christian values, the defense of life in particular, development, the dignity of the person, the fight against poverty,” and much more. For such values Christianity is absurdly attacked by a secularist or pagan world.
Thus Christians of all ages, some lame or ill, have been brutally driven from their homes and made to wander upon mountain wastelands without food or water, with infants and toddlers in their arms, all in the name of religion. In fact, such savage behavior is a contradiction of true religious observance; violence visited upon innocents cannot possibly be justified by appeals to religious motives. Compulsion is antithetical to religion; freedom was given us as an innate right so that consciences can be formed in accordance with the Creator’s will.
Genocide, whose ghost is evidently rising in Iraq today, is a crime against God and man.
In a letter to the United Nations Organization, Pope Francis has pleaded on behalf of all Christians and Yazidis, as well as Shia Muslims, who have been violently driven out of their homes in Northern Iraq. Their fate, he added, awakens the souls of all men and women of good will to concrete acts of solidarity.
The world at large must somehow safeguard these tortured souls by offering assurance and urgent assistance; this needs to be done right now, the Holy Father insists; indeed, all that the world at large can do to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities must be done. And those who are displaced should be ensured safe return.
The world today lays claim to moral superiority over Nero’s Rome, even when horrific aberrations such as the Shoah and mass abortions do occur. The Book of Revelation reveals that Satan has in principle been vanquished; granted. But he remains intensely at work in the world. We must all be alert, prepared and courageous. Our struggle, after all, is not with the powers of this world, but with the principalities and dominions of eternal darkness, Satan and his cohorts. (Eph. 6:12)