Looking at our world today, there is no doubt that religious persecution is very much in vogue. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and peoples of other faiths are routinely persecuted partly by those who govern them and wherever people of these religions form the minority. Sometimes these persecutions are carried out in the cover of darkness. At other times, it’s done with the collusion of powerful individuals and government.
Today, the UCAN
(Union of Catholic Asian News) website reported that the Religion and Peace Academy Nepal (RAPAN), an Inter Religious body, has warned that “people forcing political goals on religion are hampering the already peace process in Nepal.” Closer to home, especially in recent times, we have seen unruly mobs threaten, make fun and belittle the beliefs and rights of the religious minorities.
Sometime ago, I received this particular email “A Pastor With Guts“ on three different occasions. No doubt, many others would have received it too. What stands out about this story is how one pastor decided to stand up for what he believed in, irrespective of what others thought. His stance brought about the wrath of many who stood opposed to his position. Conversely, it also brought about many new believers, renewed the floundering faith of others and affirmed those who believed.
For no particular reason, my thoughts turned toward China and the trials and tribulations of the Church there over the years. I learned about Ignatius Kung (pic above). The Christian History Timeline
website tells us that:
On the night of September 8, 1955, the Communists arrested Bishop Kung and about 320 other Roman Catholics. Many of these would suffer long years in prison, known no longer by their names, but by numbers. For 5 years, Kung was held in prison without a trial. Finally, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. To go free, all he had to do was to renounce the pope and accept the Communist puppet church. He refused to do either.
And so, for thirty years, he had to live the Christian life, relying directly on the Spirit of Jesus, because he was denied letters, books or the Bible. Much of his thirty years was spent in such strict isolation that the guards were not permitted to speak to him. He was not even allowed eye contact with another human being!”
The Cardinal Fung Foundation
has more on his life and work.
Check out also a 1993 Interview
by Kung on the Persecution of the Church in China.
Catholic News Service has a one page brief history
of the Catholic Church in China.
Although Kung was released in 1985, he remained under house arrest until 1988. In 1979 he was secretly ordained Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. By the time his election as cardinal was published, he had already turned 80 and had lost the right to participate in the papal conclave – the meeting of cardinals who gather to elect the pope whenever there’s a vacancy. He died on March 12, 2000 and is buried at the Santa Clara Mission Cemetery, California.
During this Year of Priests, we might want to think about all those whose religious freedoms are curtailed everywhere in the world, irrespective of our religious beliefs. We could also spend a little bit more time praying for those exemplary priests like Ignatius Kung who suffered greatly to remain faithful to the Catholic Church.