Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Homily or November 23rd, 2016: Luke 21:12-19.

Was that just in ancient times? No. The persecution of which Jesus speaks in today’s gospel continues today. Here is just one example.

On the 4th of November, 2015, a Muslim mob in eastern Pakistan severely beat a Christian couple accused of burning pages of the Koran and then incinerated them in a brick kiln. Shama Bibi, who was four months pregnant, and her husband Shahbaz Masih were bonded laborers at a brick factory. They had 4 children at home. Their brutal murder followed in the wake of a court decision a month previously that condemned a Christian woman to death, Asia Bibi, who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010. Since the 1990s, a number of Christians have been charged with desecrating the Koran or of committing blasphemy. While some sentences have been overturned due to lack of evidence, even a mere accusation of blasphemy can incite mob violence.

Dominican Father James Channan, O.P., Director of the Peace Center in Pakistan commented: “The barbaric act by fanatic Pakistani Muslims of burning alive a poor Christian couple was triggered by the false accusation of the burning of some pages of the Koran. Muslims and Christians alike are victimized by controversial blasphemy laws that stipulate life imprisonment for desecrating the Koran and the death sentence for defaming or insulting the Prophet of Islam. These laws are often used to settle personal scores. In any case, who in their sound mind would burn pages of the Koran or insult the dignity of the Prophet Mohammed?

“Most problematic is that these laws are very vague; plus most Pakistanis are illiterate—hence, the application of the law is very easily abused, with people taking matters into their own hands. Extremist Muslims, incited by mere accusations, have murdered other Muslims as well as Christians. But the Christian community is most vulnerable, since an accusation leveled against a single individual can provoke violence aimed at his or her family as well as the entire local community. Homes are seized, churches are burned down, and people are killed. Once a person is accused, his or her life in Pakistan has become impossible. Even if the courts eventually declare an individual innocent, radical Muslims may still murder the person, which is considered an act worthy of praise.”

Seldom do we hear of these atrocities in this land of the free. Our media, already hostile to Christian faith, are not interested. All the more reason, therefore, to pray for our fellow Christians in a world which has become, once again, and age of martyrs.