By MSGR. RICHARD LOPEZ, Commentary | Published October 4, 2018
The nation was shocked when five Amish children in Pennsylvania were murdered in their classroom in 2006. Our shock turned to amazement when one of the grandparents said, “We must not think evil of (the killer).” Another relative explained, “He had problems of the heart.”
Retired Pope Benedict XVI described this kind of mercy as one that stuns the world to silence. Pope John Paul II said, “The only thing that stops evil is mercy.”
What happened in Pennsylvania in 2006 is the norm for persecuted Christians. In his wonderful book “Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt’s Garbage Slums,” Marty Makary described CBS news reporter Bob Simon attending Mass in the burned-out shell of an Egyptian church. Simon wrote, “But we were surprised there was no anger, no call for revenge.”
On the bombed-out wall of an Egyptian Christian orphanage were the words: “You meant to hurt us, but we forgive you. God is love. Everything works out for the good.” In the scores of churches burned by Islamists, the signs go up: “We forgive, we still love you.”
One Egyptian Muslim reflected, “As a Muslim I knew Christianity had to do with forgiveness, but I never thought it would go to this extent.”
In a book that should be required reading for all Americans, “The Last Christians,” Andreas Knapp wrote that although numerous priests have been murdered and countless churches, shrines and monasteries destroyed, not one mosque has been attacked by Christians and not one iman murdered in revenge.
A journalist observing destitute Iraqi Christians who lost everything stated: “How little energy these people channel into hatred and vengefulness.” One Iraqi victim of Islamist-
inspired genocide remarked, “For terrorists it is an honor to kill people. Shouldn’t it be an honor for us Christians to pray and show love for our persecutors?”
Would you be able to forgive the group that beheaded your father for being a Christian? Could you have mercy on the men who crucified your six-year-old son or sold your 14-year-old daughter into sex slavery? Could you look with compassion on those who destroyed your homes, businesses, schools, churches and ancestral villages?
This is precisely what the persecuted Christians of the Middle East are doing now.
Their courage and mercy show us how petty anger is at a sister-in-law, and how absurd the fact of not speaking to a brother in years because of a money dispute. Dare I suggest that their mercy might inspire us to consider forgiving those Catholics in the Church who have betrayed the church?
We get teary-eyed over the extinction of certain animal species, yet turn a blind eye to the massacre of our fellow Christians. We spend hours listening to the talking heads on television, yet turn a deaf ear to the cries of our brothers and sisters begging for the preservation of Christianity in the birthplace of our religion.
May the God of mercy forgive us if we remain blind and deaf to the plight of our brothers and sisters. Pope Benedict said, “The vengeance of Jesus is the Cross: a ‘no’ to violence and a ‘yes’ to love.” Such is the God that martyred Christians show to their Muslim neighbors. In the name of that Christ, please reach out to suffering Christians by supporting Aid to the Church in Need (www.churchinneed.org) or Catholic Near East Welfare Association (www.cnewa.org).
Msgr. Richard Lopez served for many years as a teacher at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta.