by Hannes Wessels
On one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar, Christians will look back on the events of the past week with little cheer.
Apart from the Eiffel Tower, no building represents France quite like Notre Dame Cathedral and for Christians everywhere, the beautiful building is massively symbolic. Construction began under the reign of Louis VII in 1163 and it has survived revolutions and catastrophic world wars but was very nearly burnt to the ground in a devastating fire which the authorities, including President Macron seemed to be in an unseemly haste to explain, was accidentally caused.
We are told, “Paris police will investigate the disaster as ‘involuntary destruction caused by fire’” and that they have ruled out arson and potential terror-related motives for starting the blaze. Well, maybe it was an accident but there’s a mountain of circumstantial evidence to suggest it was not. According to PI-News, a German news site, 1,063 attacks on Christian churches or symbols were registered in France in 2018. This was up 17% from 2017 when 878 attacks were reported. Notre-Dame des Enfants Church in Nimes was looted and human excrement used to scrawl a cross on a wall. In Houilles a statue of the Virgin Mary was smashed and in Lavaur a statue depicting the crucifixion of Christ was mangled. The Church of St. Sulpice in Paris was set ablaze by arsonists. Unsurprisingly, there seems to have been little said about this brazenly anti-Christian campaign in the reportage of the disaster.
The media’s determination to stop speculation that may suggest foul play was plain for all to see on Fox News (which is disappointing because they normally try to go for the facts) when two guests appeared to be closing in on the truth before they were told to shut up.
Deputy Mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Philippe Karsenty’s line was cut after he insinuated the fire was a terrorist attack. “It’s like a 9/11, a French 9/11 it’s a big shock. This church was there for more than 850 years. You need to know that for the past years, we’ve had churches desecrated each and every week all over France. Of course, you will hear the story of the politically — the political correctness, which will tell you it’s probably an accident.” Later, Catholic League president Bill Donohue was shut down by Neil Cavuto after he said he was suspicious the fire was related to other church burnings. “Just last month, a 17th century church was set on fire in Paris, we have seen tabernacles knocked down, crosses have been torn down, statues have been smashed.”
Anyone who doubts the fact that the Christian message is being harshly suppressed will have a problem explaining the reaction in Australia to rugby star, Israel Folau’s recent social media post. In it he reminded his readers of a biblical edict that has been articulated for 2,000 years condemning homosexuality and fornication while imploring those who have sinned to repent with the words, “Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”
The reaction has been swift and Folau’s illustrious career appears to be at an early end with the scrapping of his contract under pressure from primary sponsor, Quantas Airlines, whose CEO Alan Joyce is openly homosexual. All this, in a country that claims to guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of religion and a right to a fair trial. As far as I know, Folau will not even be offered an opportunity to explain himself to his superiors. What the authorities are saying with their condemnation of Folau is that the scriptures are hereby censored and God and Folau must now apply themselves to changing behavioural norms in the modern world.
All this against a backdrop of global persecution of Christians which appears to be intensifying. ‘Open Doors’, a ministry focusing on alleviating the plight of struggling Christians around the world names 50 countries on it’s ‘Watch List’ and grades the levels of oppression within them. What is going on, on a regular basis in countries like Sudan, Pakistan, Libya and Nigeria is truly terrifying. Last year in northern Nigeria a Christian village was attacked in which 106 innocents were killed and in Borno State, parishioners in a Catholic Church were gunned down while houses were razed and property looted. But there appears to be a deafening silence from those we would expect to be leading the fight to defend ‘the faith and the faithful’.
Pope Francis seems to be more exercised with problems relating to capitalism, ‘Global Warming’ and criticising the American president for trying to build a wall to protect his borders. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been using his influence and position to exhort his followers to be ‘sensitive to their country’s colonial past and how this might affect their witness in communities that once belonged to the Empire … who have experienced abuse and exploitation by an Empire that has seemed to hold the Christian story at the heart of its project?’’
A religion that was only recently so strong, so powerfully defended and spread with pride and goodwill throughout the world, is on its knees and desperately in need of leadership. Among the clerics, there seems to be a lamentable lack of belief, commitment to the cause and fortitude. One of the few world leaders of consequence who seems proud to proclaim his belief in Christianity is Donald Trump and looking at the way they’re going after him he must be feeling a little like Jesus Christ did before they put him on the cross.