Martyrs

Trevi Fountain Lit Red to Honor Today's Christian Martyrs

Screenshot via Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre Italia / Youtube.com

The Eternal City’s iconic Trevi Fountain was bathed in vivid red light late April 29 to honor the blood shed by Christian martyrs and what organizers said are an estimated 200 million Christians suffering persecution around the world.

Hundreds of people gathered at the historic fountain for the event organized by Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic foundation backed by the Vatican.

Surviving Nun Recalls Yemen Massacre

Image via REUTERS/Stringer/RNS

A chilling, eyewitness account of a deadly attack on a Catholic nursing home in Yemen has detailed how four nuns were sought out by gunmen who then executed them before destroying the Christian symbols in the residence’s chapel. According to the lone surviving nun, the attackers, allegedly Islamic extremists, entered the complex in Aden at around 8:30 a.m. on March 4 and first killed a guard and driver

Pope Francis Calls Murdered Nuns in Yemen 'Today's Martyrs'

The four nuns killed in Yemen. Image via Alessandro Gisotti ن/Twitter

Pope Francis said four nuns executed by gunmen in Yemen at a home where they cared for elderly and disabled residents are “today’s martyrs.” His remarks on March 6 about the brutal killings in the increasingly lawless country on the Arabian Peninsula came a day after he decried the “diabolical violence” that claimed the lives of a dozen others at the Catholic-run facility in the Red Sea port of Aden.

We Can Respond to ISIS as Christians or as Americans. But Not Both.

Image via /Shutterstock.com

So what do we do about ISIS? The U.S. and the U.K. have decided that the answer is to bomb them. And it’s looking more and more like the answer will become to send troops.

But what do we do about ISIS? Does it make a difference whether I respond as an American or as a Christian? These days it’s hard to tell a distinction between the two. And that’s the question, and the answer, that scares me most. 

 

On Scripture: Halloween and All the Saints

Candles illuminate a cemetery on All Saints' Day, wawritto / Shutterstock.com
Candles illuminate a cemetery on All Saints' Day, wawritto / Shutterstock.com

I probably shouldn’t admit how much I like Halloween. I’m too much of a slug to deck out my house, I rarely wear a costume, and I haven’t been to a wild party in years, but I love the excitement children bring to the whole process. Then again, there’s the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – what’s better than that? I’m pretty much a sucker for Halloween.

I was already an adult when I learned how we came upon Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve marks the night before All Hallows’ Day, or All Saints’ Day, when Christians celebrate those who have preceded us in the faith. Some churches honor great heroes of the faith, the “saints” of our past. Other churches emphasize that all believers are “saints,” not because we are especially virtuous but because we are made holy simply by God’s will. In some churches, the label “saints” joins us not only to our deceased forebears but also to our living sisters and brothers scattered around the world. (Still other churches simply don’t observe the day at all.)

Justice for the ‘Angel of the Amazon’

In May, a court in Brazil sentenced a second rancher to 30 years in prison for ordering the murder of Dorothy Stang, a Catholic Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who worked in Brazil with small farmers for almost 40 years defending the Amazon rain forest. Stang, 73, was shot six times in February 2005 as she held her Bible and read it to her attackers. She was left lying on the road in the town of Anapu in Para, a state where loggers and ranchers have deforested huge sections of the world’s largest rain forest.

“For the first time in the history of Para, all those indicted for assassination in a land conflict were brought to trial and convicted for criminal activity in the Transamazon region,” said her community in a press release. “The people who came from Anapu for the trial went back home with peace and hope.”

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Sojourners Magazine July 2010
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A Solitary Witness

On Aug. 9, 1943, a young Austrian farmer named Franz Jägerstätter was beheaded in a Gestapo prison in Berlin. To older readers, he may be familiar as the subject of Gordon Zahn’s 1964 book, In Solitary Witness, an account that became a classic of the anti-war movement. To younger readers, he is probably just another unpronounceable German name. But that may change with Erna Putz’s new book, Franz Jägerstätter: Letters and Writings from Prison.

Born in 1907, Jägerstätter was a rebellious youth known for his rowdiness and for fathering a child out of wedlock. Marriage changed him, however, as did the political changes of the late 1930s that swept his once-isolated village into the stream of the Second World War. Austria became part of the German Vaterland, and like every other young man, Jägerstätter, now a father of three, knew he would be required to defend it. When the call came, he reported for duty. (After a few days, he was dismissed: The country needed farmers as badly as soldiers.) Later he was called up again, this time for training as an army driver.

Older than many of his fellow trainees, Jägerstätter felt out of place. On one occasion, he secretly jumped the barracks walls to attend Mass. In December 1940, he joined the Third Order of St. Francis.

In April 1941, Jägerstätter was again dismissed. Back home, he plunged into his work as a farmer—and as a sexton. His devotion was remarkable, and soon villagers who had clucked at his youthful excesses were wagging their tongues about his habit of attending weekday Mass, going to confession, and even leaving his work to pray.

There were other reasons for the gossip. When a plebiscite was called to ratify Germany’s takeover of Austria, Jägerstätter had dared to vote “no.” Even more boldly, he would often return the greeting “Heil Hitler!” with “Pfui Hitler!”

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Sojourners Magazine December 2009
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Death of an Activist

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist, was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16, 2003, while trying to stop the destruction of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip. Israeli military police concluded that her death was accidental, though eyewitnesses claimed she was murdered. Simone Bitton, an Israeli filmmaker living in France, examined the conflicting accounts of Corrie’s death in her documentary Rachel. Becky Garrison, author of The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail and Rising from the Ashes, spoke with Bitton at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in April, where the film had its North American premiere.

Becky Garrison: What drew you to this story?

Simone Bitton: I am an Israeli citizen, though I live in France now. This story has special significance for us because it was the first time a foreign peace activist protecting Palestinians was killed by the Israeli army. Somehow a red line had been crossed.

On a more personal level, I was moved by the story of this young girl. I’m 53 years old, and I’m at the age when one starts mourning one’s youth and evaluating one’s own present and past commitments. I had been a peace activist since I was young, and I have a deep feeling that my generation has failed. We didn’t achieve anything. The Occupation is more terrible than it used to be.

Corrie’s death received little press, but she still received more coverage than the Palestinian who died the same day.

In general, in the Middle East and a lot of places, the value of life is not the same for the media and the public. The lives of Palestinians aren’t worth much in comparison with the lives of Americans and Israelis. Although I made a film about an American citizen and not the anonymous Palestinian victim, my choice to focus on the American should be questioned in the film. And I think it is.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2009
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