The Cry of the New Martyrs
I was in prison and ye came unto me. (Matt. 25:36)
"...to endure, to experience sufferings-or at least to do so through compassion for your neighbor-this is the path of free faith in Christ's resurrection." (Fr. Dimitry Dudko)
"Why do good men remain silent? Do you free men of the Western world continue to look to your own affairs and re- main cold to the injustices which have put three innocent men in trouble? You were enthusiastic to see man place his feet upon the moon but you do not know how to plead for your brothers. We have been chosen for captivity and suffer- ing, we who were born, live, and remain here. But we want you to feel with us in our suffering and cry out when we cannot: 'Enough!'" (Fr. Georghe Calciu)
Through the courageous efforts of spokesmen such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Fr. Dimitry Dudko, the eyes of the West are gradually being opened to the awful truth of increasing repression and persecution of the faithful behind the Iron Curtain. But these eyes, are they eyes that see? Those to whom they speak, do they have ears to hear?
Yes, their words, their cries are addressed to us. And we who call ourselves Christians, what is our response? Do we hear so many pleas for help from so many directions that we simply feel sorry for a moment, mumble a prayer and then forget? Do we expect "someone else" to help them? Do we excuse ourselves by thinking we have enough problems of our own to cope with? So spoiled have we become by freedom here in the West, that it is difficult to feel the responsibility of someone else's suffering on the other side of the world. Perhaps we are stirred to righteous anger when we hear of a new arrest, or of a church being closed, a priest banished, a believer sent to a psychiatric "hospital" for treatment of "anti-social behavior", children forcibly separated from parents because they are being "brain-washed with anti-Soviet propagandaBut the Soviet Union is so far away, and we have our job, our family to care for, Sunday school lessons to prepareAnd the next day we have a picnic and who wants to spoil a picnic with thoughts of persecution of our brothers and sisters? But yes, precisely, they are our brothers and sisters, belonging to the same family in Christ. No matter how many miles separate us, these are our "neighbors" whom Christ commanded us to help and care for as He illustrated in the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. What then can we do? How can we turn our momentary spark of righteous anger into a flame of compassion which in turn will bring forth the fruit of active Christian love?
LORD, WHAT SHALL I DO?
First, we must beg God to soften our hearts. . How many times do we read in the Gospel that our Lord was "moved with compassion", and acting upon this feeling of compassion, He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind. When He saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matt. 9-36). In one of Fr. Dimitry's letters he writes: "We have no independent bishops!" It is evident that a genuine religious revival is taking place behind the Iron Curtain. People are hungering for the truth, but they are in desperate need of proper guidance, they lack Bibles, prayer-books; there are few faithful pastors. The same Gospel goes on to say: Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest. Yes, let us beg God that He would put that call on our hearts, that we would have compassion and be moved to labor for Christ.
We must also recognize our responsibility before God Who has granted us here in the West the gift of freedom. We are free to worship together, free to study the word of God, free to print and distribute religious literature, free to teach our children the law of God. Are we taking advantage of this freedom, or are we burying this talent in the ground? Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required (Lk. 12:48). The hearts of our imprisoned brethren cry out to us who are in freedom, "Help us!" Here in the West where we have such an abundance and the means to reach out to our suffering brethren in Christ, what is our response to this plea? "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."? If we do not help them, to whom can we expect to turn for help when it becomes our turn to suffer for Christ? Let us take the responsibility now of using our freedom wisely, or all too soon it shall be taken away.
If, then, our hearts are filled with compassion and we wish to act while there is yet time, the question arises, "What can I do?"
Let us begin with prayer, for without prayer even the most praiseworthy intention will be fruitless. Without Me ye can do nothing. And let us not underestimate the power of prayer. Prayer is the gift and duty of every Christian-at all times, in all places, of all ages and circum-stances. Let us beg God daily like the importunate widow, to have mercy on these suffering beneath the godless yoke of communism; let us join our cry to theirs: Lord, O Lord, how long? If possible we should remember those imprisoned by name, and have them commemorated at Liturgy. Each of us can take a few extra minutes during our morning and evening prayers to pray for those who are persecuted, in concentration camps and psychiatric prisons, in hard labor; for children separated from their parents, for those who have lost their jobs for confessing Christ, for those courageous priests who are trying to lead their flocks along the true path. We should pray for all those individuals and organizations which are trying to help by sending material aid to prisoners and their families, those who are printing and sending in Bibles, literature. A few minutes of each day-is this too much to ask? Let this be our sacrifice "acceptable to God."
(to be continued)