(By Gian Domenico Daddabbo) In image of the grain fallen in the ground to die and bear much fruit (Cfr John 12:24), the blood of martyrs is “seed of new Christians”, this way the Latin philosopher Tertullian sums up the deepest sense of martyrdom.
The Church has always guarded the memory of martyrs, as it was born from the supreme testimony of Jesus on the Cross, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but power of God and the wisdom of God for the called ones, Jews or Greeks” (Cfr 1 Cor 1,23-24), so in the foolishness of the Cross Christ left an example for those baptized in Him to follow his steps (Cfr 1 Peter 2:21).
The etymon of the word “martyr”, from Greek martys (μάρτυς), that means “witness”, reflects a Christian’s faithfulness in his/her strong stand for the Truth’s Gospel, even at cost to sacrifice his/her life: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12,25).
The deacon Stephen was the first one who “got his hands dirty”, since he announced the Word with bluntness although the flock’s leaders charged him with swear and browbeat him to recant, until he endured lapidation. Starting from Stephen, the Mystery of the Cross has driven lots of baptized men and women of everywhere and every time into giving their lives for the Lord and their blood still gives life to the Church and, beyond denominational differences, it is fulfilled what Pope Francis defines “Ecumenism of blood”.
In occasion of foundation of Forum about christianophobia in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI expressed strong concern about the increase of persecutions against Christians and nowadays that denounce rings out more distressed. Pope Francis has noticed that on the last two centuries there have been more Christian martyrs than at the beginning of the Church’s history.
We cannot be surprised, considered the many Christian victims from the Armenians’ slaughter up to our days. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS spreads terror and kills whoever opposes to Sharia law (Christians first of all) with public executions: bailings, beheadings and crucifixions and kidnappings too are at the order of the day, moreover ISIS threats us too through the Western jihadists, called “foreign fighters”.
Same terror rages in Lybia and then in Nigeria for hand of Boko Haram. In Saudi Arabia and Yemen it is not allowed to build churches, wear a cross and sell copies of the Bible. In Pakistan lots of Christians are unfairily imprisoned or killed because of blasphemy law, called “the black law”. In other countries of Soth-Eastern Asia, like Philipines and Malasia, most muslims persecute the Christian comunity with discriminatory acts and attacks against churches; in India Christians endure attacks from Hindu foundamentalists and in China and North Korea they are still persecuted by Atheo-Communist regimes.
Not only does a bloody persecution exist, but even a sneaky and slight one. Nowadays the West, which loves defining itself “a free world”, tries to confine religion in the private area, because of a scorn coming from a dominant laicism which diclares itself tollerant towards every manifestation of thought, but doesn’t allow the affirmation of the only, absolute and definitive truth, this is the reason of the hostile stance towards Christian morality.
There are many signs of this aggressiveness. I think about the Pentagon’s decree issued in the middle of 2013, which lays down serious restraints to religious freedom in the US Army, persecution against antiabortionists; but the most stricking sign is the vehement affirmation of gender ideology which, with appearance of false humanism and equalitarism, aims at redefining marriage and family through an “ideological colonization”. Nobody get deceived! We are not better than the Christians who die because of their faith, either than our Teacher: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake” (Matthew 10:17-18); “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
In this historical moment of confusion and moral disaster, I notice the time we Church in the West will fight the same battles Christians of Eastern Europe fought under the Soviet Regime is near, so with certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39), we want to ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of Fortitude to cling to our faith and feel united with the whole Church in the good battle (Cfr 2 Timothy 4:7), focusing our attention on the brave testimony of many of our brothers and sisters sheding their blood, besides I think especially for us Christians the 100th Anniversary of Armenian genocide (1915-2015) is a strong call to unity and to be constructors of peace “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us” (Cfr 1 Peter 3,15).
On the contrary, it’s enough to detach oneself just a little bit from the true faith, that it will take nothing to lose it. Therefore, who will make us sure nobody will imprison us for our faith or we won’t die as martyrs, like it happens to many of our brothers and sisters in Christ?