Do you know what happened in Paris on November 13, 2015? 89 killed and nearly 400 wounded.
Do you know what happened in Lahore, Pakistan on March 27, 2016? 78 killed and nearly 400 wounded.
Do you know what happened in Agatu, Nigeria on February 24, 2016? 300 killed.
Do you know what happened in Garissa, Kenya on April 2, 2015? 148 killed and 79 wounded.
How many of you are able to tell stories of Lahore, Agatu and Garissa? How many of you know that in Lahore Christian families gathered in a park to celebrate Easter Sunday were targeted by a massive suicide blast which left 78 dead, more than half of them children? How many of you know that in Agatu Islamic arm forces went through Christian villages slaughtering 300 followers of Jesus? How many of you know that in Garissa a group of Muslims stormed a Christian college and in cold blood executed those who admitted they were Christians?
After Paris shooting there were solidarity rallies, buildings lit up in France’s colours: blue, white and red. After Orlando shooting there were solidarity rallies, buildings lit up by rainbow. After Lahore shooting there was ignorance. After Agatu shooting there was politically correct silence. After Garissa shooting there was tactful omission in media reports.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! It is nothing new. Followers of Christ have been persecuted right through the centuries. In fact Jesus warned us saying: “People will hand you over to councils and flog you. You will be dragged before governors and kings because of me. (…) Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have put then to death, and you will be hated by all because of my name.”
I don’t expect an acknowledgment from the leaders and powerful of this world. However it becomes a question for us, who share the same faith in Christ with those sisters and brothers of ours, how we treasure and preserve their memory. When I saw my friends marking their Facebook pages with French colours or the rainbow after Paris and Orlando I asked them whether I missed the symbols of their solidarity with slaughtered Christians before. Actually I didn’t miss them as there were no signs of solidarity. However it wasn’t about the Facebook. It was about the lack of knowledge.
In this time of trial for many followers of Christ I feel that we, comfortable Christians in countries like Australia, have become like that priest and Levite from the Gospel. We pass the suffering of our fellow Christians silently. We don’t gather and treasure the stories of those who paid the ultimate price for their love for Jesus Christ. If we don’t hold their memories as precious and sacred they will be totally ignored by the society. The society cannot understand their sacrifice as our society looks at faith as something like a hobby you do after hours, probably even as a strange hobby. However faith is not something additional to our life it is the essence of who we are. Those two men from the Gospel ignored a suffering human being. Today a suffering believer is ignored.
Let me finish with another date. Do you know what happened on August 9, 1945? Americans dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki. The area where the bomb exploded was the suburb inhabited by the local Catholic community. There were 12 thousand of them living there. 8,500 died on that day. Rumours were spread that they were so badly hit because they abandoned their old religion to become Christians. However the support they had from each other and from the foreign missionaries allowed them to accept the tragedy not as a punishment but as imitation of Christ who took upon himself the sins of others. Let’s gather and treasure the memories of our contemporary martyrs.