Rev. Gerald Ragan wrote a guest column in The Augusta Chronicle on Saturday under this heading, inviting his readers to join him in an act of solidarity on Thursday. Here’s the column in full:
Even before ISIS launched its ultra-violent campaign targeting Iraqi Christians in the summer of 2014, Pope Francis proclaimed that the current wave of Christian persecution in the Middle East is worse than the suffering inflicted on believers in the centuries of the early Church. A well-known journalist, Shiela Liaugmina, posted the following on her blog as she wondered why there was such great silence about this Christian persecution: “Pope, patriarchs and prelates are crying out for intervention. Where are the presidents and prime ministers?”
Some Jewish leaders see with clarity history repeating itself, and have cried out about the silence as it unfolds in sheer, graphic and now-widely known brutality – such as Ronald Lauder in The New York Times, in an Aug. 19 column titled “Who will stand up for the Christians?”
Why is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa? As the leader of the World Jewish Congress, Lauder slammed global apathy to persecution of Christians in the Middle East and other parts of the world, saying more countries should be moved to action.
“The general indifference to ISIS, with its mass executions of Christians and its deadly preoccupation with Israel, isn’t just wrong; it’s obscene,” Lauder wrote. “The Jewish people understand all too well what can happen when the world is silent. This campaign of death must be stopped.”
Lauder stated that while the international community has rallied to defend the persecution of other minorities in other conflicts, “the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.” Noting a range of offenses against “Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries” in the Middle East and parts of Africa, he decried a lack of action.
“Historians may look back at this period and wonder if people had lost their bearings,” Lauder warned. He noted that international organizations have mostly remained quiet on “the Nazi-like wave of terror that is rolling across” Iraq. Additionally, he said, celebrities or public figures have not spoken on the persecution, and he wondered “why doesn’t the slaughter of Christians seem to activate their social antennas?”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., wondered the same thing out loud, with a profoundly heavy heart. “Where are the voices?” he asked. “Why a silence? …Today our solidarity with brothers and sisters of our faith and of other faiths in a part of the world where there is clearly an effort to eliminate them is something that we simply cannot in conscience ignore. …
“I’m sharing these thoughts with you because I don’t want to have on my conscience that I was complicit in something as horrendous as this simply by being quiet. And I ask myself where are these voices? Where are the voices of parliaments and congresses? Where are the voices of campuses? Where are the voices of community leaders? Where are the voices of talk show hosts and radio programs? Where are the voices of the late night news? Where are the voices of editorial columns? Where are the voices of op-ed pieces? Why a silence?
“I think each one of us has at least the power to raise our voice and be in solidarity with people distant from us, unknown to us, not a part of this campus, not a part of this family, not a part of this university, not a part of our nation. But they are a part of our human community. I think it should rest on the conscience of each one of us. Atrocities happen because there are those who commit them and those who simply remain silent.”
Do not remain silent.
The Catholic churches of the Augusta Deanery ask you to participate in a special Mass for persecuted Christians at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 18, at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, 4921 Columbia Road in Grovetown.
(The writer is pastor at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church in Augusta.)