Archbishop Christian Lépine, member the International board of directors for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), opened this year’s mass for persecuted Christians with the words: “It is time for courage to affirm one’s faith and not to hide it.” During the service held on Red Wednesday, Nov. 20, he offered ideas to consider on how to help our brethren, both the persecuted, and the persecutors.
“Christ’s resurrection is stronger than death,” said Archbishop Lépine.
According to ACN, at least 327 million Christians live in countries where discrimination is almost omnipresent and punctuated with episodes of persecution. In his homily, Archbishop Lépine redefined the various levels of aggression. He insisted on the importance of not confusing them. Discrimination is the first level: it means to differentiate in an unjust and illegitimate manner a group according to its ethnic or religious background. It leads to humiliation, restrictiveness, injustice… Persecution stands at the second level: it is the result of an unjust, violent and cruel treatment inflicted with determination.
The consequences of persecution can be terrible: imprisonment, torture… Persecution can lead to the ultimate level of aggression: martyrdom. The Open Doors NGO estimates that in 2019 at least 4,305 Christians have been killed due to their faith and 3,150 are currently imprisoned somewhere in the world. In view of this outburst of violence, Archbishop Lépine invites us to “ask the Virgin Mary to give us the courage to defend one another.” But what are we really able to do?
“We must take time to join in prayer,” said Mario Bard, Head of Information for the Canadian office of ACN.
Archbishop Lépine gave in his homily some elements on which to reflect in order to act concretely in favour of Christians, for example through prayer, which is the catalyst in our relationships. He adds that, as one follows Christ, one is called to go further down the road: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44); do good to those who hate you and pray for those who abuse and persecute you. The ACN via its website acn-aed-ca.org suggests various prayers one can recite on a daily basis. They aim both at the persecuted and the persecutors.
Archbishop Lépine also invites us to question ourselves. We are called by the situation Christians find themselves in, but do we ask ourselves if we, at times, use discrimination at our own level in our daily lives? To conclude, Archbishop Lépine reminded us that through prayer we must: “Learn to see others as brothers and sisters in their humanness.” With the light prayers bring and the grace of the Holy Spirit, Peace will come.
“Let us all stand up so that the killing of innocent people can stop,” said Archbishop Lépine.
The Mass organized by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reminded us all that we can, in our own way, like the widow in Mk 12, 41-44, and according to our own means, contribute to creating a better world for persecuted Christians. Today, ACN supports more than 5,000 projects all over the world, ranging from buying a chapel boat in the Amazon, to building a church in India, bringing Bibles to children, training pastoral agents, etc. These are multiple ways to support a Church in need. For more information on persecuted Christians in the world, do not hesitate to read their most recent report on persecution and oblivion on their website.