While living with faith in Jesus Christ is not without its challenges in our society, the opposition we can face pales in comparison with that faced by believers elsewhere in the world. Two recent news items brought this fact home to me.

   The first was a story from Nigeria. This is a country with a large Catholic population larger than Portugal or Ireland yet also one that exists in a pluralistic society. You have probably read in the news about the violence in the country’s north. Often times attackers target Catholic Churches and schools. Nigerian Catholics attend Mass faithfully, knowing the danger from bombs and militants, but braving this because of their devotion to Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

   On March 8th, 2022, Father Joseph Akete Bako was kidnapped from his house after militants had already killed a security guard. It was just announced that he had been killed in late April, shortly after Easter. Fr. Bako had remained faithful to serving his people, despite the danger this posed.Now, like the Good Shepherd, he has laid down his life in service to his flock.

                      JBako     Zen

              Father Bako           Cardinal Zen   

   Just a few days ago in Hong Kong the 90 year old Bishop Emeritus of the city, Joseph Cardinal Zen, was arrested by the Communist authorities. He was targeted for being part of the movement pushing for greater freedom and democracy in his home city as was promised by the Chinese government when they took it over in 1997. There have already been many arrests including several lay Catholics who were part of the same movement  and now the Cardinal himself was arrested. Many commentators see the purpose of this action as intimidation for anyone else who, like the Cardinal, would speak out against the abuses of human rights and freedom being carried out by the Chinese government.

   The stories of Fr. Bako and Cardinal Zen  as well as so many others in their situations, lay people, religious, and clergy remind us how fortunate we are to enjoy the freedom and peace in our country that we do. At the same time, when we face opposition or derision for how we practice our faith, we need only think of our sisters and brothers in Christ who pay a far higher price than we do to follow Jesus Christ.