This week at school we have been remembering Christian communities in the Middle East who are suffering because of their religious beliefs. You may even have seen the staff wearing T-Shirts with the symbol to the left on them and wondered what that was all about. Just as the Star of David was used to target followers of the Jewish Faith during the Second World War, in parts of the Middle East, the symbol is being used to target homes and business of Christians. The symbol is actually the Arabic letter ‘n’ which is an abbreviation for Arabic word ‘nasara’ meaning ‘Christian’.
The photo below was taken in Cairo, Egypt, where I was working not that long ago. You can see the jagged edges of the rock of the large room and carvings in the wall. This space is actually a church – a church that was carved out of rock in order to get around the Egyptian government’s ban on building churches. It may be a simple space but the hearts of those that worship there are big indeed.
To get to this church one must go through a small suburb which contains a large population of rubbish collectors who collect all of the refuse from across Cairo. They make a living from sorting and recycling everything they can. As a result, it is said that Cairo has the highest rate of recycling in the world – much higher than what occurs in Australia.
Their story is inspiring but that does not take away from the fact that the entire suburb has a deep and pervading smell that invades your senses as you make your way up to the churches. The people that worship at the churches above the rubbish city do not have much but many ministries abound in the area for Christian and Muslim alike who are in need of help.
It is not appropriate for our students to know the depth of the suffering of the Christians in the Middle East and we have been focusing on how we can follow God’s example by loving everyone regardless of their religion, nationality or gender. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28)
The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote ‘Silence in the face of evil is Evil itself’. It is my hope that as a community we can in still a deep sense of speaking out when people in our world are not being treated fairly. From the playground to the world stage, Christians should be passionate about continuing the ministry of Christ “…to proclaim good news to the poor…proclaim freedom for the prisoners and…to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4.18)
May we all give thanks for living in a country where we can freely practice our religion and remember those who believe in the face of persecution.