Friday, July 22, 2011

True Martyrs Answer Violence With Love

This video may take a few minutes of your time. Please watch it.

I have written about the persecution of Christian minorities by militant "Islamic" groups in our time, as well as the constraints that indigenous Christian populations have suffered through the ages under various Islamic states.

But this short documentary presents it with shocking immediacy. Here are the words, the faces, the blood of the Chaldean Christians of Iraq who were slaughtered in a terrible attack during their service at the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Bagdad on October 31, 2010.

The Chaldeans are not only a religious minority. They are a distinct people, descended from the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia. They lived in the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates long before the Arabs came in the great seventh century Islamic conquest. They endured and suffered under many invasions and regimes through the centuries, preserving their faith, their ancient liturgical prayer, and their dignity. They nearly perished during the Ottoman genocides of a hundred years ago. But they endured.

Now they face perhaps their greatest crisis. The militant forces that claim to represent the religion of Islam pose a threat to many throughout the Middle East. In particular, these forces hate Christianity. They conceive it to be a duty to Allah and a command of the Qu'ran to kill Christians. The Massacre of last October 31 makes this abundantly clear.

Priests, lay men, women, and children were killed without mercy, out of hatred for the faith of Christ. It was neither the first nor the last expression of hatred toward these people. Many are fleeing their 2000 year old homeland. Who will defend their human rights?

I am not an expert on the religion of the Qu'ran, or the interpretations that wicked people may be able to draw from it. It is clear that the rights of all human persons must be upheld and defended against the attacks of the violent. But I also think that we must not let this violence provoke us to hatred, or to a purely defensive or reactionary posture, or to a division of the world into warring parties. Christians have something much greater to offer than "culture wars."

I do not believe that murder is a constitutive feature of the hearts of Muslim peoples. They are peoples with rich and varied traditions and cultures, and many have themselves been persecuted and oppressed down through the centuries. Facile generalizations cannot help us here. What is essential is to continue to seek understanding and love, and to find ways to live together in this world--now more than ever as we find ourselves increasingly side by side. Also, we Christians must continually witness to our Muslim brothers and sisters, and to all people, what it is that constitutes the human heart, and in allowing our hearts to be drawn we must hope and pray that others will be drawn with us to the Only One who satisfies the human heart.

In laying to rest the martyrs of October 31, 2010, the parents, children, brothers, and sisters who remained behind had a message for their persecutors: "We forgive you. We pray for you." What secret seed has been sown by their blood on this holy ground? Forgiveness is the strongest energy in the universe; there is no bullet or bomb that can overcome it, and it works miracles in violent hearts. Forgiveness brings reconciliation. It is the gift of Christ for Eternal Life.

And it radiates out to give hope to our poor world.