2019 continues to be a year in which it is dangerous to be a Christian. Not, perhaps for us here in the United Kingdom but around the world each day our brothers and sisters in Christ face horrific persecution. In a recent study 50 countries were identified as being the most unsafe for Christians. In these 50 countries alone, an average of 11 Christians die each day, 2625 have been detained and imprisoned without trial, and 1266 church buildings have been attacked or destroyed. These startling figures should encourage the church here in England to respond in some way. The Archbishop of Irbil, Bashar Warda, has warned that Christians in Iraq now face extinction after 1400 years of living and praying in the region. ‘Christianity in Iraq’, he said, ‘one of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom.’ The Church in Iraq faces a future in which their persecutors seek not only to wipe out the present community but to remove all trace of the rich Christian heritage from the land. And this is repeated in places around the world where Christian cultures and communities are under threat. The Archbishop believes the reason Christian leaders in this country and others have remained quiet in the face of the persecution is political correctness: ‘Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organised persecution against us? When the next wave of violence begins to hit us, will anyone on your campuses hold demonstrations and carry signs that say: We are all Christians?’. The Bishop of Truro has supported the Archbishop’s call for more action and solidarity, reminding us that we should not ‘only consider [the persecution] in light of Islamic militancy’ as when we do this ‘we let a lot of other people off the hook who should otherwise be held to account’. The reluctance to act in any way is one that should concern us as Christians and should galvanise us into action in support of our brothers and sisters around the world. We can begin with prayer but we must also think of other ways to act in solidarity and to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians around the world. For when one part of the body of Christ is wounded we are all wounded.
May 2019 saw a large gathering of Pro-Life supporters gather in London for the March for Life. This annual event offers an opportunity for people to witness to the sanctity of life and to learn more about the issues surrounding the Pro-Life argument. This year the theme of the March was: ‘Unique from Day One’. This theme sought to remind people that to be Pro-Life is not to ignore science or to be ant-science in some way, but rather that science and scientific discovery continue to reinforce the Pro-Life argument. From the moment of fertilisation our DNA is present whether it is 23 pairs of chromosomes or 22. That is to say that at the very moment each person is a unique, unrepeatable, and incredible person distinguished from any other human being on the planet. As Christians we can shy away from speaking up for life but we should not be afraid to do so. Just as science is on the side of life all the more should our Christian communities be. The Pro-Life movement seeks to create a world where the beauty, dignity and uniqueness of all human life is respected and upheld. There is a long way to go and this will require us to face up the inequalities around the world and to strive to ensure that these are eliminated so that all people can thrive. It can be easy for us to imagine that we cannot change what is going on around the world but there is so much we can do. By changing small things in our own lives, by speaking out, through prayer and action we can make small differences that will have a great culminative effect. As Christians we need to be serious about the building of the Kingdom of God, this is God’s call for each one of us. In the musical ‘The Man of La Mancha’, Don Quixote has various seemingly impossible dreams to which he is attached but he reminds us that to dream them is ‘to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause’. We can begin this march quite simply in prayer.