Monday, 12 October 2015
"For all the Saints...."
On 12 October 1915, British nurse Edith Cavell was shot at dawn by a German firing squad in Brussels for helping hundreds of allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium.
A century later, she is being celebrated in exhibitions and concerts in Norwich Cathedral and in public buildings in the city, and in the nearby village of Swardeston where her father was vicar and where she grew up.
Cavell was hailed as a Christian martyr concerned only with saving the lives of allied soldiers. Her execution provoked outrage in Britain. Egged on by the government, she was dubbed “our Joan of Arc” by the press.
“Everybody must feel disgusted at the barbarous actions of the German soldiery in murdering this great and glorious specimen of womanhood,” wrote Arthur Conan Doyle.
A headline in the Manchester Guardian on 22 October 1915 read: “Merciless Execution of Nurse Cavell,” while an editorial dwelled on the “callousness” and “brutality” of the German occupiers in Belgium, and the way Cavell’s execution was carried out quickly and secretly.
As All Hallows' Eve draws near on November 1st we remember the lives of all those gone before and those Christians who continue to be martyred across the world.
The Christian agency 'Voice of the Martyrs' defends religious liberty and contends that more of Christ's followers have been killed for their faith in the last century than in most of the previous centuries combined. The global evangelism movement reports an average of 165,000 martyrs a year, more than four times the number recorded in the last century.
'Amnesty International' brings to the public notice all those Christians imprisoned for their faith...there are many.
In this the twenty first century those countries that support religious freedom are experiencing increasing derision towards Christians. We can see it in the media, when academics; scientists; newspaper columnists; 'comedians'; radio and television programmes routinely denigrate people of faith.
Here in UK there has been a rise in an aggressive kind of secularism which is intolerant of Christianity. Some Christians sense that their ideas, symbols and activities are being marginalised. As evidence of this they draw attention, for instance, to Christian images relating to Christmas being replaced with symbols of winter by some city councils. In some situations Christians have found the implications of their beliefs to be unacceptable to their employers and they have been sacked for refusing to remove the Crucifix they are wearing
On UK television, Christians long to see themselves portrayed as normal and reasonable. It is not uncommon for Christian characters to be presented in drama as narrow-minded or hiding evil intentions behind a show of religion. This fosters an attitude of mistrust in which prejudice can thrive.
This persecution will increase, and it is a form of persecution, just as much as the torture and persecution Christians face in those countries not tolerant of religious freedom.
With this increased secularism fragile convictions will collapse and the half hearted will become the cold hearted. Spiritual stowaways will jump ship by abandoning their faith. Many church goers will be exposed as faith pretenders and not only will they leave the faith they will make the lives of the faithful miserable.
Makes for grim reading doesn't it? But look around you, this is happening now to Christians here in the UK, and elsewhere.
Like Edith Cavell we should be prepared to die for our faith.