Five Ways to Help Persecuted Christians

by David Mills

North Texas Catholic

Smoke rises from the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar Oct. 9, 2019. Smoke rises from the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar Oct. 9, 2019.
Smoke rises from the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar Oct. 9, 2019. Turkish warplanes have begun attacking northeastern Syria, causing widespread panic among Christian and other religious communities caught up in the aerial bombardments. (CNS photo/Reuters)


We may not care for persecuted Christians nearly as much as we think we do. Some people can feel deep sympathy for people far away from them, the depth of sympathy they feel for a child or friend.

But not everyone. I’m not very good at it.

Not everyone

Here’s one reason. It’s worth thinking about, when social media hits us with story after story after story — all trying to get us to react on social media and pile up those clicks. Our suffering brothers and sisters are great for that.

Why? We can easily use someone else’s suffering to advance our pet causes and to supply ourselves with enjoyable feelings. I know the excitement of finding a story that illustrates a belief I already have. It gives me another weapon to use in an argument. Persecuted Christians provide great weapons. I also know the pleasures of feeling upset and angry. Persecuted Christians provide a lot of reasons to get really upset.

We too easily become addicted to material that religious studies professor Alan Levinovitz calls “spiritual pornography.” Spiritual pornography “stars easy heroes and villains.” Its heroes are idealized versions of ourselves, the enemies are caricatures of the other guys, the bad guys.

It makes us feel good about ourselves and justifies our despising the other guys. It encourages what he calls a “hollow fantasy of moral warfare.” We don’t actually do anything, besides get upset and hit “share.” But we can feel like we’ve been in battle and deserve a medal.

You can see how we could easily tell this kind of story about persecuted Christians, especially if their persecutors are people we don’t like. Their stories tug at our hearts or make us angry. We hit “share” on our Facebook pages and feel we’ve struck a blow for truth and justice. I’m a writer, I tell myself. I’ve spread the word, so I’ve done my job.

But I haven’t done my job as a Christian responsible for his brothers and sisters. Social media warring doesn’t really serve persecuted Christians. It will make us feel good, but it doesn’t help them. They need enacted sympathy.

Practiced sympathy

Sympathy without works is dead, as St. James might have written. Anyone can feel angry or sad for suffering Christians, because feeling angry or sad feels so good. Everyone can become a “slactivist,” because being a slactivist is so easy. But a Facebook post is not a work in the sense the Apostle expects us to work. Neither is a Tweet. Links without works is dead.

Here are five suggestions for real support of our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.

First, pray for them, but not just as another general item in your list of intercessions. You might say an Our Father and a Hail Mary for each martyr by name. You might pray for the Christians in a specific town or region or church. Make your prayers “granular,” focused. Give the suffering a few extra minutes of your day.

Second, give money to the Catholic agencies that help these Christians, not as part of but on top of your regular giving. Give up your daily fancy coffee or a second beer at the pub and donate the money saved. While you’re at it, let that tiny, tiny, tiny sacrifice give you some small feeling for the huge sacrifices they make every day.

Third, learn about their churches and their lives in some detail. When you love someone, you want to know all about them: who they are, where they came from, what they’ve done, what happened to them in the past, who loves them, and who hates them. The reverse works too, I think. You begin to love those you learn about.

Fourth, advertise their sufferings and struggles. Share the links to their stories. Even better, write about them yourself when you can (see my third suggestion). This will show your own engagement with their lives. That will prove more effective in moving others to share your concern than just posting another link.

Fifth, and maybe most difficult of all: Listen to Christian leaders in the countries where Christians live as a minority. Don’t accept the major media and the government’s stories about what happens in those countries. Their leaders challenge the dominant American narrative, especially the one shared by right and left, the mainstream American consensus we assume must be true. Factor their interests into choosing which candidates and causes to support.

To reverse the old joke about romantic relationships: It’s not about us. It’s about them.

We may not care for persecuted Christians nearly as much as we think we do. Some people can feel deep sympathy for people far away from them, the depth of sympathy they feel for a child or friend.

Published