On the day following the Easter Sunday bombing of Christians at a park in Lahore, Pakistan, Pope Francis condemned the attack, calling it “reprehensible” and saying that it “bloodied” the day of the resurrection of our Lord. He expressed his “closeness to all those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime,” asked for prayers for the victims and their families, and appealed to government and social leaders of Pakistan to restore peace.
This editorial board stands in solidarity with the Holy Father’s request, joining our prayers with his as the affected families begin to face the aftereffects of this senseless and particularly despicable attack. At least 24 children were among the 72 victims. Hundreds more people were wounded.
The attack was claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban, which declared it had been targeting Christians. As has been well established, Christians are a high-risk minority in the Middle East in the current climate. The Department of State in mid-March denoted the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the area as “genocide.” Such a designation allows for the easier resettlement of persecuted men and women, for greater international cooperation in addressing the problem at its root and for perpetrators to be held more accountable.
The Catholic community, led valiantly by the Knights of Columbus, played a major role in advocating for this designation, with thousands signing a petition asking the State Department to help stop the genocide. But the work does not end here. As seen in Pakistan, the violence continues, and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar already has declared its intention to kill more Christians. What’s more, that group is not the only one. In the U.S., Catholics continue to have a big role to play when it comes to the well-being of Christians in the Middle East. Here are four ways every Catholic or parish community can help.
Make the safety of Christians in the Middle East part of your daily prayer regimen. During his short address after reciting the “Regina Coeli” on Easter Monday, Pope Francis led those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Hail Mary for the victims and family members of this latest attack. Parish groups or individual Catholics could make a plan to pray the Hail Mary twice a day — once in the morning and once in the evening — for peace in the Middle East and around the world, and for the safety of all fellow followers of Christ.
Support the Knights of Columbus’ continued work for Christians in the Middle East financially by making a donation on its website christiansatrisk.org. The Knights of Columbus continues to be a big supporter of Christians in the Middle East through both raising money and raising awareness. In its powerful report submitted to Secretary of State John Kerry on genocide, the Knights listed 50 pages worth of known attacks on Christians in the Middle East and more than 1,100 names of those who had been martyred. In addition, they have raised more than $4 million via its Christian Refugee Relief Fund.
Work for “respect and fraternity” in all areas of life. Such behavior, Pope Francis said in his “Regina Coeli” address, is “the only way to achieve peace.” This begins at home with our spouse and immediate families, and then extends outward to our other communities.
Finally, remain hopeful. As Pope Francis said in his “urbi et orbi” Easter address on Easter Sunday, “let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: ‘Take courage; I have conquered the world!’ (Jn 16:33).”
Editorial Board members: Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor