At least 28 people were killed, several with a single shot to the head. The attack on Friday 26th May in Minya Province, 120 miles south of Cairo, was a coldblooded escalation of sectarian violence targeting minority Christians that has left more than 100 people dead since December. Father Shay Cullen shares with us this reflection.
Hundreds of thousands of true Christians around the world suffer persecution, torture and death these days because they are disciples of Jesus of Nazareth and put into practice his spiritual values that give meaning to life itself.
Why is there such opposition to a message, a way of life that espouses; love of the outcast, freedom, human rights and dignity, equality and the defence of children and a better life for the poor and the oppressed people of this world?
The Man who was called by some a great prophet who had come back to life, a wonder worker, a spiritual teacher, a man of compassion, a peace-maker, a defender of children and women and a social revolutionary brought these values into the world by his simplicity of life and his living out of these values.
We all need to love and be loved as Jesus taught and practised. His words to his friends at his farewell meal echo today when he says the greatest love we can have is to sacrifice ourselves for others. That today is giving and not taking from a community, a family, a friendship. It means the well off are challenged to give back and share their wealth. It means bringing goodness to the needy and the vulnerable. Of course his message was challenging and many left him.
It was his fiery challenging message to the hypocritical corrupt authorities, the cheating traders and unjust judges of his day that aroused hatred, anger and fear among these rich elite. They ruled with gross indifference to the plight of the poor. Jesus called them stinking sepulchers, painted white outside but full of dead bones inside. That was strong language indeed.
His words are as true today as they were then. A similar social and economic situation prevails today in many developing countries. Particularly in the Catholic Philippines where the powerful 140 or so super rich families and their cronies in congress and the military and police rule the 100 million people with a benign smile and a machine gun in gift wrapping.
They control the many by the tactics of the few. Immediate assassination, imprisonment and execution of the modern day prophets, the human right workers, media practitioners, the social activists, oppositionists, priests and pastors.
Just like the man from Nazareth they are risking all, their good reputation, their name, their family, even life itself. They are working and calling for true justice and respect for human rights and the ouster of the corrupt politicians and judges and prosecutors. They get charged with wrongful accusations, baseless allegations and legal cases to destroy their credibility and smother their cry for justice. They want the kingdom of Jesus to be real and present in order to end the human trafficking, jailing of children, sex tourism, and the disgusting coddling of criminals, child abusers and rapists.
So after the first exciting public arrival of the messenger of God to the city where he was a marked man and his every word and act was noted to be used against him in false accusations, to trip him and block his mission and bring him down in disgrace. They shamefully succeeded only too well, but only for a while. His words and presence lived on, his life lit up the world and set it on fire with idealism for the kingdom and today it is still there for us. We only have to reach out and embrace that same mission and do our share to change the world and ourselves.