Iraq Christians’ status more stable but still precarious

The ruins of the Chaldean Catholic cathedral are seen Aug. 3 in Kirkuk, Iraq. Iraq was home to about 1.5 million Christians at the start of the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003; some estimates put the current total at 175,000 Christians.

WASHINGTON — Although life in Iraq for Christians has stabilized since the routing of Islamic State from the country, their numbers are down from 2014, when the militant group began its insurgency, with their towns largely wrecked and infrastructure in shambles.

This was the assessment of panelists at a Nov. 28 roundtable in Washington sponsored by the Knights of Columbus in recognition of a week of "Solidarity in Suffering" declared by the U.S. Catholic Church that began Nov. 26 to raise awareness of the situation of persecuted Christians throughout the world.

U.S. urged to be more vigorous in protecting religious freedom globally

WASHINGTON — A U.S. congressman told attendees at a Washington summit on Christian persecution that "more than ever before, vigorous U.S. leadership and diplomacy are needed to address religious freedom violations globally."

"Religious persecution is festering and exploding around the world. What has been unconscionable for decades, centuries, has gotten worse," Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said May 12 in remarks at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.

I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God’s glory lies on the other side of hardships

Bishop Robert J. Hermann

In the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, the power illustrated begins with Jesus' words at the Last Supper. "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him."

This power flows into the selection from the Acts of the Apostles, in which this power comes alive in Christ's disciples. The reading from the Book of Revelation reveals the ultimate glory of Christ's words as His disciples share in Christ's glory in heaven. This is good news for us because we share in Christ's power working the Father's glory in our hearts.

BEFORE THE CROSS | Persecution of the faith backfires

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

Two great episodes of the early Church are intimately linked: the martyrdom of St. Stephen and the conversion of St. Paul. We read about them this week. They set a challenging question: Are we willing to suffer for the spread of the Gospel?

St. Stephen, one of the first deacons, was proclaiming the Gospel in both by word and deed. What was the reward for his labors? He was falsely accused of undermining the Temple and the law. How did he take it? There was no dismay. He took no umbrage. He remained calm: "His face was like that of an angel" (Acts 6).

Editorial | Religious persecution pains us

You know it's serious when Pope Francis accuses the world of trying to hide the persecution of Christians.

It pains the pope, and we don't like to see the pope -- or so many others -- in pain.

"With pain, with much pain I learned of the terrorist attacks today against two churches in the city Lahore in Pakistan, which have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries," Pope Francis said to a crowd of pilgrims and tourists gathered for the Angelus prayer March 15 in St. Peter's Square. A Taliban splinter group, calling itself Jamatul Ahrar, has claimed responsibility.

DEAR FATHER | Persecution because of faith should lead us to stronger praise of God

Father John Mayo

"But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name" (1 Peter 4:16). These words of encouragement from our first pope to the early Christians tell us that persecution should not lead us to shy from the faith. Persecution should instead lead us to more fervent praise of Him who created, redeemed and sanctified us.

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