“There are more martyrs today than in the first centuries”

For March, the Pope prays "that Christian communities – especially those suffering persecution – may know themselves close to Christ and be protected in their rights". He underpins his claim with a video message.

Pope Francis denounces persecution of Christians and discrimination against believers in a video. People are being killed simply for their faith, church leader says in video message on prayer request for the month of March. "It may be hard to believe; but there are more martyrs today than in the first centuries," said Francis. The video, which lasts just under a minute, was released on Tuesday.

"Let us pray that all Christian communities, especially the persecuted ones, may feel the closeness of Christ and that their rights may be recognized," the pope's appeal said. To that end, the video shows several churches destroyed.

Pope Francis presents his special prayer request every month via video message in several languages.

Demanding rights instead of begging

Persecuted for their faith? Yes, around the world, Christians in particular are experiencing this. Asia Bibi in Pakistan, sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, has now finally received public attention in this country as well. After the acquittal by the Supreme Court, she still had to hide from radical Islamists.

It's good that the pope is speaking out ecumenically on the ie: For persecuted Christian communities we should pray, not only for the suffering members of our Catholic Church. At the same time, he is addressing the whole of humanity. Because without real religious freedom and honest tolerance there will hardly be peace on our planet.

Korean-born cultural scientist Byung-Chul Han, who now teaches in Berlin, explains in his book "The Expulsion of the Other" that we have long been living in a (dis)culture of globalized egalitarianism. "Reconciled diversity" – not only in the ecumenism of the Christian churches, this should be a guiding principle for us to follow.

It is also noteworthy that Francis does not beg for benevolence in his prayer request, but demands rights. When he flies to Morocco for two days at the end of this month, he will probably again take the opportunity to call on the Islamic world to recognize the right to religious freedom as an inalienable part of human rights.

Could not also strict followers of the Sharia once learn something from the fellow men of the West, because after all it is also to their benefit? When the pope now visits North Africa in the European spring, many of us will think wistfully of the "Arab Spring," which after a brief blossoming has so far left few traces behind. And how does it continue in China? The unfortunately still secret treaty of the People's Republic with the Vatican, which is supposed to alleviate the conflict that has lasted for years, has so far been hotly disputed on the Catholic side.

What helps badly protected Christians now? Determines our prayer. The Pope prays to us that they "know themselves close to Christ": Jesus, too, after all, was put out of the way in a summary trial.

He expressly rejected violent resistance, with which his "first pope" wanted to beat him up on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. No, he does not hide, does not try to talk his way out. Calmly and clearly he stands opposite the wrong witnesses and impatient judges. Many of his friends in the course of church history have also followed him in this.

A look at the history of Christianity

The persecution of dissenters is primarily about fear: fear of losing one's own power. This, of course, is not admitted, but packaged pleasingly with the supposed "interests of the common good". Whether the Roman emperors who had Christians slaughtered en masse or Islamists today who throw bombs into Egyptian churches: Christians are and remain dangerous from the point of view of these people because an invisible government – their God – is the very supreme authority for them. Anyone who even allows himself to be told something by a foreign religious authority – as Catholics do – is quickly considered a traitor to the fatherland and can become a problem for state security. Quite apart from the fact that minorities usually have troublesome requests to the majority in their baggage.

A look at the history of Christianity, however, quickly brings us down from any high horse. What has been done to Jews and dissenting believers by "Christian" governments since the Emperor Constantine's edict of tolerance in 313 A.D. can bring a blush of shame to our faces. The abuse of religion by rulers seems to have needed the elimination of "infidels" at all times.

This will probably end at the most when faith communities can prove that – without applauding their governments in everything – they produce good or even better citizens of the state. In the famous letter of the apostle Paul to the Christians in Rome, the capital of the world at that time, in the 13. In the famous letter of St. Paul to the Christians in Rome, the capital of the world at that time, the basis for this can be read in the 13th chapter: "Let everyone submit to the holders of state power.

For there is no violence but from God." He carries out here what his and our master answers to the trick question of the opponents with the tax coin: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:21). Governments have to demand tributes, God asks for devotion. That can end fatally in the case of conflict. Christians pray: "Thy kingdom come". His government is the future, we are still in the middle of the election campaign!

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