Walking with the Saints

It is small wonder that young people are fed up with organized religion. What they see is one group killing the other group, not only now but throughout time. It is shocking the level of distrust and even hatred that exists between people of faith. Young people see this and the long history of religious wars and want to have nothing to do with it. Many of our youth are choosing the Eastern traditions that emphasize compassion and inner peace. Honestly, the future of Western organized religion is on shaky ground.

I think Jesus is very sad about all this strife. I think the Prince of Peace is angry that we can’t get along as a human family. I really don’t think that Jesus demands that all worship in the same way. We need only look at the Parable of the Good Samaritan to see what Jesus feels about those who worship differently. He illustrated in that story that it isn’t the priest who showed compassion but the pagan outsider. It is our actions that count, our caring for one another, not how and to whom we pray.

May 16, we celebrate the feast day of the Martyrs of Sudan. In the late 19th century the British divided Sudan into two parts with the Muslims in the North and a more multi-ethnic South. This led to 41 years of civil war.

In the 1980’s the conflict took on increasingly religious overtones when the Muslim North imposed authoritarian control and restricted free speech and religious expression. On May 16, 1983 the Episcopal and Roman Catholic clerical and lay leaders declared they “would not abandon God as they knew him.”  Over the next two decades possibly two million people, most of them Christians, were killed. Another five million Christians have been displaced or forced into exile. Churches, schools and institutions were destroyed.

A peace treaty was signed in January of 2005 which has allowed for an expansion of the Christian communities which includes four million members of the Episcopal Church of Sudan.  However, there continues to be terror and persecution for some of the Christians in Sudan.

It is hard to imagine being faced with apostasy. Do I lie about my faith and save my life, or do I stay firm in my Christian faith and face the possibility of a violent death?

Today we pray for the millions of brave Christians who choose to stay true to their beliefs. And we pray for a world where the lions lay down with the lambs and religions are a force for peace on earth. This I believe is truly possible and it starts with us.