Dear OSJ Family
A few of our parishioners asked me to share some startling statistics that I used in my homilies last weekend regarding the ongoing persecution of Christians all around the world. Sadly, but because we need to earnestly reflect on what this means for us as a body of believers and as a human family, I share this information with you, taken from my Epiphany homily:
“To believe in Christ, to obey his Gospel and to execute his teachings, means that we will unquestionably need to take some risks. We will be forced to move beyond our comfort zones and at times move into danger zones. Being a Christian, especially in the unbelieving world in which we live today, is a risk. Sadly as we begin 2017, The Catholic News Agency reports that Christianity has become the most persecuted religious group in the world. In 2016 there were over 90 thousand Christians killed around the world, with 63 thousand of those on the African continent. Twenty-seven thousand of that 90 thousand were murdered by terrorists, terror sponsored groups, and governments that participate in the persecution of its religious minorities, including North Korea. Today we gather here, in our beautiful and welcoming parish church, freely and without fear, but 500 million other Christians cannot freely practice their faith. We must pray and work to change that!” (Florio homily of January 8, 2017)
Indeed, this sad reality must be addressed by our civil and religious leaders as we move in to the New Year, and like the early Christians, we must not allow the pressures and trials of the world around us to cast us into shadow and darkness where the light and radiance of our holy faith can be extinguished. Religious freedom ought to be a right for all people regardless of what they believe or with which faith they identify. This does not exclude our Christian sisters and brothers who continue to suffer, mercilessly, for their faith.
And you will be hated for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved – Matthew 10:22
May God bless and protect all who suffer for their faith.
In the Lord,
Fr Phil Florio, SJ