“The happy day has dawned for us on which Holy Church makes her first radiant appearance to the eyes of faith and sets the hearts of believers on fire. It is the day on which we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit by our Lord Jesus Christ, after he had risen from the dead and ascended into glory….” Father of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon based on John 20: 20-23 (applied by many as the Gospel for Pentecost Sunday)
As 31 percent of the world’s population celebrates Pentecost weekend, let us lift in prayer those persecuted for following the religious consciences of their Pentecost forebears.
For the faithful persecuted in Nicaragua:
President Daniel Ortega has treated the Catholic Church as a political enemy by arresting priests, expelling missionaries and the apostolic nuncio, and closing Catholic media outlets and educational and charitable projects. A recent report released this May details 500 instances of attacks on the church in Nicaragua since 2018.
For the faithful persecuted in Nigeria:
Terror groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa continue to defy the authorities, and Fulani militants attack Christian villages with impunity. In 2022, reports indicated that Fulani extremists killed more than 6,000 Christians and destroyed 17 villages.
For the faithful persecuted in China:
In China, authorities have detained or otherwise forcibly disappeared Catholic priests and bishops—including Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu and Bishop Augustine Cui Tai—who refused to join the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.”
For the faithful persecuted in India:
Evangelical Fellowship of India has pointed out to the court that the government itself has disclosed that political groups linked to the ruling party have been involved in communal crimes. They say that ultra-nationalist right-wing organizations such as the ‘Hindu Sangathan, Hindu Vadi Sanghatan, Hindu Jagran Manch, members of RSS, Bajrang Dal, and VHP’ have been involved in the attacks. The petitioners claim a rising tide of violence against Christians in the world’s largest democracy. They reported 505 instances of assault in 2021, rising to 598 in 2022. And they say that in the first two months of 2023, there have been 123 assaults.
For the Christian faithful in Iran:
Iran has been ranked number one in a recent Pew Research Center Forum that studies severe government restrictions on religion. To live as a Christian there is to face countless daily “micro-aggressions.” Perhaps only about 10 percent of Iranian Christians—mostly evangelicals and Pentecostals—suffer serious indignities, but these Christians experience constant scrutiny from the nation’s “religious police,” the Basij. Church services are raided and worshippers arrested, with the most systematic persecutions directed towards evangelicals, who are not recognized by the state and insist on proselytizing Muslims.
For the faithful persecuted in Afghanistan:
In Afghanistan, religious minorities face strident official discrimination and societal abuses. The Afghan law does not recognize confessions other than Islamic ones. The constitution states that Islam “is the religion of the state” and that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” Islam functions as the state religion and apostasy, the act of renouncing Islam, is punishable by death absent recantation. For Christians in Afghanistan, this translates into the necessity to conceal one’s faith in public or risk severe punishment and discrimination. Most Christians in Afghanistan select the former path.
Lord, so great is our love for you
That even though we walk in a world
where speaking your name can mean certain death
Your faithful still speak it
And speak it all the louder.
Help us work for a world where all may speak their creeds
And pray their prayers
Without fear of violence.
Hear the prayers of those who abide with you
in dangerous times
and in dark valleys,
And who die with your name on their lips.
Draw them quickly to your side
Where they might know eternal peace.
Prayer source: Catholic Relief Services. “Prayer for Christian Martyrs.”