Pope's Missionary Intention for September

Missionary Intention: Christians in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. That by placing their trust in the strength of the Holy Spirit, Christians in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, who often confront great difficulties, will not lose the courage to proclaim the Gospel to their brothers and sisters.

It is generally true that be a Christian in Asia is to be a member of a small minority. By contrast here in sub-Saharan Africa, Christianity is either in the majority or constitutes a substantial minority.

Sadly, small minorities are frequently the target of repressive governments such as those presently in control in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma), which often makes the position of the Christian believer uncomfortable in the extreme.

Unfortunately because Christianity is identified with the West, these repressive regimes who fear the West and its values and power, can use Christians as political scapegoats, reminding their people of the past colonial history of the Western powers. They can also blame Christians for being a threat to the local culture, and stir up envy against them when they are economically and educationally successful.

We should pray for Christians in Asia therefore, not just because they are beleaguered, but because they have such symbolic importance. They remind us of our past history. We were all minorities once. The Roman Empire once had a small subculture in it called 'Christians'. Christians were a minority group in Africa a hundred years ago.

Hence small Christian minorities remind us of the symbolism of the mustard seed, which is never to be underestimated. So given the  growth Christianity has enjoyed in certain societies (especially African ones), perhaps repressive Asian governments are, from their own point of view, right to be wary of Christian minorities. It is just a pity they are so scared of a faith whose love casts out fear.

This article originally appeared in The Southern Cross (www.scross.co.za)

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Chris Chatteris, S.J.

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