"Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness"

Following is the weekly reflection of Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah for Sunday May 21-May 27, 2017:

Sunday 21.5.2017

"Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness", because of me.

There was a time, at the beginning of the Church when the Church was persecuted. This time ended. Then came a time when some Christian states, kings and church forgot what and who they were, and became persecutors of others. This time also ended. Later, came a time in which the Church formally proclaimed its penitence for persecution of others, the time of the Vatican II Council (1962- 1965). Its documents are rich with penance, recognition and respect of the human being in whatever religion. The door of dialogue with all religions opened.
Again, Christians were persecuted because of their faith in the Soviet empire. Many martyrs suffered and died for their faith. This period ended and Russia resurrected with new faith.
Today, persecution is in our Arab countries. The Copts of Egypt are the symbol of a new era of martyrdom, so are the Christians of Syria and Iraq. Nevertheless, with these martyrs for Christ, we note that the human beings in general are made martyrs by death imposed upon the region. Why?

Monday 22.5.2017

We already said that death in our countries is coming from outside, but we welcomed it, supported it and we executed it in ourselves. We, means all our Arab countries. We are all responsible, the ignorant and those who leave them in their ignorance. We kill ourselves by the way in which we educate our generations, make them into killers, unaware or some are aware. Nevertheless, they keep going on in their evil. From outside they exploit our disposition to kill each other; they light the fire of seditions; they create people like ISIS; they sow anarchy and death in all Arab countries in order to weaken them so that no one remains strong enough to oppose the policy makers in the "political West". This is what is happening now.

They tell us we are safe here in Palestine and Jordan while others are being killed. We would have liked that so many brothers and sisters in humanity, nationality and religion, were not exposed to death and they too remained safe. Our safety is a deep pain rooted in the suffering and perils of so many.

The words of Jesus Christ: "Anyone who has caused the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depth of the sea" (Mt 6: 18) apply to all those who are the cause of this tragedy and anyone who is the cause of death of these millions. Indeed, states perish and pass; the powers of this earth are submitted to the same law: They will also pass and change.

Tuesday 23.5.2017

The Christians believes in Jesus Christ who taught us new values and the commandment of love which, until today are not from this "world" (cf Jn14: 11; 15: 18-19). These values are ignored by the policy makers for this region. The Christians ask: how can we live the commandment of love today?

Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the hungry for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the meek, these will inherit the earth, blessed are the pure of heart, these will see God; blessed are the peacemakers and blessed are the persecuted.''

Christians in the East today are persecuted because of a world policy dominated by evil in what regards this region, and because of something wrong in our system of education, and in our true concept of religion. We understand religion as exclusion of the other; our education is based on this exclusion concept. The world politics find in this "exclusion" a fertile soil to sow dissent and instigate the brothers against their brothers and sister. For years, this is the reality which we are living today because of them, because of us.

We, Christians, are not targeted directly. We are simply ignored. As if we do not exist. Death in the region is for all, and so it is for us too. In this world, the strong and the powerful want death to the region and execute their plans in many ways among which religious fanaticism. In this international world will for the destruction of the region, and in its execution by our proper hands, Christians find their death either due to pure religious fanaticism or the comprehensive destruction of the region.

The Christians nowadays, under such circumstances, are exposed directly to persecution. They ask: How can we live the commandment of love? Who can answer the question?

Wednesday 24.5.2017

The question posed today is the following: How can we, Christians, be Christians and live our Christianity amidst death that dominates the region?

War and destruction are still going on. Human oppression is resisted by human resistance with all legal means. What is the role of the Christian? It is the role of every human being in a death situation to go with those who go, to become homeless with those who become homeless or to resist with all good and upright people; to resist death and destruction.

Following that and despite human cruelty, despite that a human being has forgotten his humanity and became a killer, the Christians listen and meditate the teaching of Jesus and the commandment of love. Even if the teaching of Jesus is so far from our reality, so high and far as from this Earth to Heaven, it contains seeds of life with which we resist evil, we live and we love. Despite death on earth we live, and we bear heaven in ourselves.

We bear in ourselves the peace of Heaven. We bear intercession for the humans who became killers so that they may revert to themselves and become human beings once again. Then, Christians lives their life in full, they live in solidarity with all the oppressed, all those who suffer, with all martyrs. They grow into humanity and become human beings who look up to God, who see God and implore him to have mercy on Earth.

Thursday 25.5.2017

Blessed are the persecuted. The Roman Empire persecuted the Christians in all the regions of the Empire, east and west. Then persecution stopped, the Empire was transformed and believed in the faith of those whom it had persecuted. The modern empire has come back to persecute Christians, though indirectly. It hits the region and all Christians and Muslims in the region perish alike. The persecuted nowadays are other than the Christians. It is the human being. The poor and the peoples who cannot defend themselves are persecuted.

The first need is to defend the human beings and their understanding of the concept of relations between peoples, between the strong and the weak. It is a comprehensive defence of the human being, including the Christians.

Yes, death has long been in our land, as everywhere else but that old death has been awakened today by the imported death wave reigning in the region. Killers are awakened and pushed to kill and we have to fear. One must be afraid and take all means of self-defense to transform the killers once again into human beings, not as dormant killers but as healed human beings, and true believers with true understanding of religion.

Friday 26.5.201

Today we are exposed to martyrdom. We live in a new period of persecution, a new empire, a new world order in which death of the human beings is a basic element, and hence that of the Christians in the region, however we look at or analyze the situation. The question at this time is then: How do we live and how do we die?

Jesus has foretold us: They will persecute you; they will kill you because of me. "The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy service to God" (Jn 16: 2). "In the world you will have hardships, but be courageous, I have conquered the world" (Jn 16: 33).

Whoever the persecutor is, we look up to Jesus for whom we are persecuted. During this time of hardships, we are called to imitate Jesus Christ in his life and in his death also. "Make your own the mind of Jesus Christ" (Eph 2: 5). "As God's dear children, imitate God" (Eph 5: 1). Imitate Jesus who loved you. As he triumphed over death, you will triumph over death and hatred in which you are submerged. This is a time in which persecution is going deeper. It can only be resisted if the Christians go deeper in their love of God and human beings. This is a time of death, therefore it is a time for strengthening the link between the spirit and death, and the new life coming forth from death. We accept our death out of the love of God and of people. This is a time in which we meditate how to live in full with all peoples, and how we die and make our death a source of life for all.

Saturday 27.5.2017

Jesus said: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body" (Mt 10: 28). He also said: "Be courageous, I have conquered the world" (Jn 16: 33).

Even when surrounded by death we do not give up to death; we give our life to live with God and to provide a new life to our countries. We strive to make peace; through suffering we purify ourselves to be able to see God here and in eternity after we are liberated from limits of time and space, and from persecutors. Now, as we are in a world of death, we can be peacemakers and say a word of truth. We can be light and salt and we can see God. We are at a time in which we must know how to live and how to die.

We die as we live the new teaching of Jesus Christ: poor in spirit, hungry and thirsty for uprightness, meek, merciful, and knowing that sadness will turn into joy, and pure of heart, we contemplate God. Despite death in our region we are sowers of life and new values on our Earth. We resist death on our Earth. How do we die? By living in full the life of spirit on earth and the life of universal love comprehensive of all peoples, without limits.

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