Series: Suffering & Resurrection

Redemptive Suffering

Who on earth wishes to suffer? Suffering often throws people’s lives and beliefs into disarray. It is truly “a pain in the neck” and, since we normally are not masochists, we try to avoid it as much as we can. Not always with success. Science has made terrific progress to alleviate our psychological and physical pains and ailments but, unfortunately, it hasn’t discovered remedy for all the diseases affecting humanity. Besides, there’s the moral suffering we experience and inflict on others. Evil is at work and its effects are rather visible in personal and social sins, like greed, egoism, injustice, violence, corruption and disrespect for human rights.  Such evils, from faith’s point of view, are a sign that God’s Kingdom, although already present in our midst, is far from its completion. Jesus fought against evil in all its forms to set us free. In His brief but intense public life, He spent a great deal of time in His healing ministry, as amply attested by the Gospels. He heals the sick out of compassion and as “a sign of a more profound healing, which is the remission of sins” (cf. Mark 2:1-12).  Jesus’ disciples are commanded to show compassion and to continue His healing and liberating ministry to rid the world of grief and sorrow. Actually, such request is extended to all, as Pope John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter, Salvifici Doloris: “At one and the same time, Christ has taught man to do good by his suffering and to do good to those who suffer.” Thus, we have the moral duty to do our best to diminish the suffering of God’s people, even though He may remain silent in the face of so many disasters – either natural or man-made. Suffering is intrinsic to our human condition. And our total and definitive liberation happens only in death. Thus, the great challenge we face is to make our suffering beneficial and meaningful. The immediate result of painful experiences is to appreciate health and wellness as the greatest gift. In our vulnerability, we lower our defense mechanisms and become readier to accept help. Then, the experience of frailty helps us to see with the heart, to empathize with those who are in the same condition and makes us more compassionate, understanding and merciful. The Cross of Jesus makes us brothers and sisters. Our own cross brings us closer to each other. But, more important than offering opportunities for insight into oneself, for personal growth, and for demonstrating practical love for others, our suffering, as a result of the Incarnation of Jesus, “becomes His suffering, and becomes an expression of redeeming love,” states Comboni Missionary Fr. Francesco Pierli in this month’s special feature. Our suffering acquires transcendence, becomes divine and associates us more intimately to the Passion and redemptive mission of Jesus.  At social level, there’s also a redemptive sacrifice. Along with the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice of so many people, throughout history, has brought change and life –

2,000 Deaths And 600,000 Christian Refugees

The following figures, compiled through local Church sources in Iraq, provide a comprehensive picture of the suffering of Iraqi Christians: – Since 2003: about 2,000 Iraqi Christians have been killed in several waves of violence; – Between February 27 and March 1,2010: 870 families, a total of over 4,400 faithful, left Mosul due to anti-Christian violence; – October 2008: more than 12,000 Christians fled Mosul due to a wave of violence; – 40% of Iraqi refugees abroad (a total of about 1.6 million) are Christians (Source: UNHCR); – 44% of Iraqis who have applied for asylum in Syria are Christians. Asylum applications are growing in Jordan, Turkey and in Western countries (especially Sweden and Australia); – The total number of Christians in Iraq: in 1987, 1.4 million; in 2003, 1.2 million; in 2009, 600,000, many of whom were internally displaced; – Iraq’s total population: 27.5 million – 97% Muslim (65% Shiite, 35% Sunni), 3% Christian and other religious minorities.    

Violence Is A Wake-Up Call For Church

Attacks against Christians in several states, especially Orissa in eastern India, have prompted Indian bishops to establish a special committee to review “our evangelization methods,” the prelate noted in his biennial report to the CBCI’s 29th plenary. As many as 163 bishops from India’s 164 dioceses were present at the plenary that has chosen Youth for Peace and Harmony as its main theme. Some 40 Catholic youths also attended the event along with secretaries of CBCI commissions and centers. Archbishop Fernandes’ report asserted the “wanton” and “sacrilegious” attacks on Christians and their institutions were premeditated. “Even more villainous was the malicious damage” to human relations “with a systematic campaign” that tried to divide communities, he said. Added to this were the “apathy” to and “certain complicity” of local governments in anti-Christian violence, especially in Orissa, that encouraged the attackers, the prelate noted. However, the archbishop also highlighted some positive outcomes from the violence. He said Christians in India rallied behind their persecuted brethren offering material and psychological help. The archbishop saluted the victims who opted to die rather than give up their faith. He also commended people of other religions who defended Christians’ right to practice their faith in peace and freedom. Soon after the attacks, Church agencies rallied behind Orissa’s Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese to rescue and rehabilitate victims, the prelate said. The special committee, set up in the wake of the attacks, would study various challenges facing the Church in the country and advise the CBCI secretary general on appropriate actions. The Church in India found some relief from this gloom when the Vatican recognized Sister Alphonsa, “a nun unknown during life but acclaimed after death,” as India’s first female saint in 2008, the report said. Another recent milestone was the Indian Mission Congress in October 2009 where some 1,300 delegates from India’s various dioceses attended. In recent times, CBCI also undertook an exercise to reorganize its structure to accommodate India’s three ritual Churches that have separate episcopal conferences. Archbishop Fernandes explained this was done to avoid duplication of work and frittering away “the precious and limited resources of the Church.”    

Stop Small Arms’ Epidemic

In 2009, the International Action Network on Small Arms’ (IANSA) members, in more than 90 countries, highlighted the human cost of small arms proliferation and misuse; they also demanded that governments enact policies that put their citizens’ security first. Civil society organizations taking part in the Week of Action organized public events, conducted media work, and generally engaged more people in the global movement against gun violence. They publicized the UN small arms process, emphasized the importance of an Arms Trade Treaty, promoted implementation of the UN Firearms Protocol, and supported policies linking armed violence and development, among other activities. Also in 2009, the Disarm Domestic Violence Campaign was launched with over 30 events worldwide. The goal of the campaign is to ensure that anyone with a history of domestic abuse is denied access to a firearm, and has their license revoked. In its last annual report, “Gun Violence: The Global Crisis,” IANSA reminded: “A thousand people die every day by gunshots, and three times as many are severely injured. Spinal cords severed, bones shattered, families destroyed, hearts broken. If the death, injury and disability resulting from small arms were categorized as a disease, we would view it as an epidemic. And no country is immune.”  

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