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11-KEENAN-ERITREA

The Media ignores Christian suffering

BISHOP JOHN KEENAN highlights the secular media’s bias against covering the persecution of Christians and looks for explanations

Christians are being imprisoned and tortured in Eritrea for their Faith—around 2,000 Christians are in prison in appalling conditions. It is the duty of Christians in the UK to help our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ in Eritrea.

Even though the Earth is now described as a global village, it is still too easy for us to get trapped in our narrow world. No matter how close a brother in need is to me, all too often I am so caught up in my own problems I just do not see him.

In this year’s Lenten message to Catholics, Pope Francis asked us to meditate on Jesus’ parable about the rich man from a rich family who feasted magnificently and dressed in fine clothes and yet could not see how the poor man, Lazarus, at his gate, needed his help. Pope Francis asked us to rise above our own first world problems and to see our brothers and sisters in need as God’s gift to us. If we would only meditate a little on God’s Word it would show us the way to do our bit as God wants us to help them.

An ACN worker recently returned from a visit to Eritrea and, despite the hardships endured by Christians there, he spoke of such positivity.

“Rarely, if ever, have I seen such spirituality among people who, in the face of so much pain, are willing to offer up their suffering for God,” he said.

We have to ask ourselves: “What message does this send out to Christians in Britain?”

It is a well-known reality in our world that, whereas the Catholic Faith is on the decline in the West, it is thriving in the developing world.

You could put it another way of course and say that our Church is dwindling in places where it is easy to practise our Faith and where you can have a fairly comfortable and trouble-free life as a Catholic.

But it is flourishing in places where the Faith is under severe, daily persecution and where you can be imprisoned or put to death just for going to Mass. Maybe we have forgotten the precious value of our Faith while our brethren in persecution know how sweet a gift it is to be saved and to know Jesus.

According to the UN, around 5,000 people leave Eritrea every month flooding into neighbouring Sudan and Ethiopia.

The situation in Eritrea is chaotic, not just for Christians. Eritrea is so oppressive to Christianity that it has been described as Africa’s North Korea because Christians are imprisoned without charge, locked up and even tortured on the pretext that their Faith is a threat to national security.

It is also chaotic for the thousands trying to flee each month, who embark on the journey from hell, where they are routinely met by militias with Kalashnikovs who ask them what their Faith is and who are all too ready to shoot or behead those who say they are Christian.

The question as to how long it can go on is as long as a piece of string. It will go on as long as we allow it to go on, as long as it is a low priority for us, their fellow Christians.

 

If Bob Dylan were to pen a tune today he might ask, ‘How many roads must a refugee walk down before they call him a man?’ Still, today, he would find the answer ‘blowin’ in the wind.’

ACN is helping persecuted Christians who now find themselves in Hitsatse refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Thanks to the generosity of ACN benefactors, a new chapel was built and priests have been travelling 45 miles to provide pastoral support and celebrate the Sacraments.

This is a wonderful display of Christianity and an excellent example for Christians in Britain. The Gospel encourages us that wherever there is darkness a light shines in its midst. Even amid the troubles of fellow Christians in the likes of Ethiopia, we see many little lights shining brightly.

Migrants who arrive there from Eritrea feel hopeless, frustrated and depressed and, as well as having nothing materially, they have also lost the mindset to cope.

NGOs are skilled at providing clean water, food and education but these migrants also need the care of shepherds and the assurance that God is with them to lead them into the light.

The generosity of those who give to ACN has ensured that migrants who arrive at the Hitsaste camp will find pastoral support, trauma counselling and a newly-built chapel served by priests who will travel an hour each way to celebrate Mass and the Sacraments with them.

I take my hat off to these brave missionary priests who are prepared to put themselves out and do whatever it takes to bring Jesus to His most desperate souls.

 

ACN condemns persecution of all faiths, not just Christians. The recent mosque attack in Canada received huge media attention but anti-Christian attacks perhaps don’t get the coverage they deserve. There is no doubt that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world but if you were to only follow the secular media you would have no idea.

This is not just my opinion. According to the non-partisan Pew Research Centre, Christians are the most persecuted minority in the world. In 2014 Christians were persecuted by governments or their society in more than 100 countries, up by six on the year before.

Writing for Australian news service CathNews, Greg Sheridan stated quite frankly that ‘there is one minority group that is more persecuted than any other in the world—more frequently, more widely, and with more intensity—yet you will hardly ever hear about it in the Western media, and that minority group is Christians.’

Going on around the world right now is a terrible process of religious cleansing of Christians yet it is hardly reported by the Western media.

Sheridan gives a fairly blunt reason. He believes the Western media is imprisoned in a kind of psychotic fantasy loop that makes it attribute all the world’s international ills to Western colonialism, mostly carried out by the formerly Christian states of the West.

The result is that our ‘media cannot bring itself to describe, much less make moral judgments about, the savage persecution of Christians.’

Our media do us a very good service generally in holding power to account and many journalists risk their lives to serve us with the truth of what is going on.

So it is sad to see the same media now mired in a political struggle for its worldwide reputation like never before.

One way the media could restore its damaged popular reputation, and free itself from the charge of fake news once and for all, would be for it to unshackle itself from its ideological world view that blinds it only to injustices carried out against Christians, and start noticing and accurately reporting the bare facts in front of its face.

 

Bishop John Keenan is link bishop for Aid to the Church in Need. Find out more at www.acnuk.org/acn-in-scotland

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