by Deacon Nick Donnelly
Over the past three months we have witnessed the convergence of two modern manifestations of Antichrist - the murderous hatred of Islamist terrorists against Christians and the implacable indifference of secularist governments and media concerning the persecution and slaughter of Christians. The perpetrators remain nameless and the religious inspiration of their depraved acts remains unacknowledged.
What could be the reasons for these omissions?
Over the past three months users of social media have been horrified by photographs and videos posted by Islamic State terrorists showing the crucifixions, beheadings and shootings of Christians and victims from other religious groups. There are also reports of Muslims committing mass rape, their captivity of over 3,000 Christian and other religious minority women to be sold as sex slaves and enforced female genital mutilation.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed Caliph of the Islamic State, and his murderers, are responsible for systematically eradicating 2,000 years of Christian culture in Mosul and Northern Iraq, among the world’s most ancient Christian communities. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has reported that 45 churches in Mosul have been desecrated and converted into mosques.
I’m sure that none of us thought we’d see news reports about Muslim terrorists painting the Arabic letter ‘ن’ on the property of Christians to identify them for persecution and ethnic cleansing as ‘Nazarenes’. Once identified the Islamic State gave Christians three choices and a deadline – to convert to Islam, to pay extortionate protection money every year or to face execution. Hundreds of thousands of Christians chose to remain faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ and fled for their lives. They now live as homeless refugees in the safe-haven offered by the Kurdish semi-autonomous region.
One of the most moving photographs I’ve seen shows a young Christian girl in the rubble of her parish church in Mosul kneeling before a ruined sanctuary and violated tabernacle. I’m in no doubt that if Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s terrorists had caught this young girl they would have murdered her for this simple act of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. This is an act of devotion that we make most days, a freedom that we take for granted in the West.
The Most Reverend Amel Nona, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul was injured during the Islamic State’s attack on his city. He has seen his people murdered, the survivors driven from their homes and his cathedral desecrated and occupied by the Islamic State. He now lives in exile with his people in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. He has issued a warning to Christians in Europe about the dangers to our Faith presented by Islam as reported in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera:
‘Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.’
‘Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.’ (Translated by Rorate Caeli)
Faced with violent persecution the early Christians had a name for the destructive forces aligned against the Church and the Catholic Faith, and that name was ‘Antichrist’. The word ‘Antichrist’ comes from the Greek antichristos, which simply means ‘against Christ’. According to St Paul one of the characteristics of antichrist is ‘lawlessness’, which conveys the dreadful reality of a person or group of people given over to sin and totally hostile to the presence of Christ in the world (2 Thess 2:3-9).
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman also recognised that cultures could become ‘antichrist’, because of their institutionalised hostility and intolerance towards Christianity. He wrote that these antichristian forces are not just human initiatives and choices but are also the result of demonic influences.
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