The Catolic Secular Forum

Catholic Hymns for Times of Fear and Uncertainty

We live at a time where many still seek to persecute us. Be it be the Boko Haram in Nigeria or other religious extremists, the Catholic faith still faces opposition. This year’s Easter season is one such example. On April 21, 2019, more than 200 people lost their lives during a series of attacks targeted at Catholic faithful in the country. It is sad but should come as no surprise. In 2 Timothy 3:12, Saint Timothy tells us that those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Nevertheless, we should remember that we can always call upon God during these times of fear and uncertainty. When afraid and anxious, singing the hymns below may help quiet your worries, and make you steadfast in the Lord.

Be Not Afraid by Bob Dufford

Through the years, this hymn has been sung during times of fear and grief. Whether to comfort dying relatives or in times of uncertainty, the message in this song, that we should not be afraid for the Lord always goes before us, has served to strengthen many. 

The hymn was written by Father Bob Dufford in 1972, before his ordination. He wrote it at a time of great anxiety, for he did not know what lay ahead of him, as a priest. Father Dufford gained inspiration for the hymn, from the Annunciation. By relating to Mary, who was also in great fear when an Angel came to her and told her she would give birth to Jesus, he came up with the theme. The words of the Angel to Mary “Do not be Afraid” are the inspiration for the hymn.

Thus, when we find ourselves in times of fear and uncertainty as the faithful in North Korea are , the hymn Be not Afraid will remind us that the Lord is still with us.

Be Still My Soul by Catharina von Schlegel

Though little is known about the composer, the words of the hymn are extremely moving. When in persecution, one may feel isolated and alone. Be Still My Soul is a great hymn for the persecuted. 

By singing this hymn, we remind ourselves that even when dearest friends depart and we find ourselves alone, the Lord will forever remain on our side. The song calms and reassures us by reminding us that in times of sorrow and fear, the Lord shall soothe and comfort us. It tells us that the time is coming when disappointment, grief, and fear shall be no more and we shall finally meet the Lord, as He promised.

Nearer My God to Thee by Sarah Flower Adams

There are few hymns that are more emblematic of times of fear and uncertainty than this. The hymn was inspired by Joshua’s encounter with God in the book of Genesis 28, wherein he called upon the Lord after a frightening dream. 

Perhaps the most memorable occasion when this song was used, was during the sinking of the Titanic. Amidst the chaos, fear, and confusion Wallace Hartley the ship’s bandleader, played this song to calm and reassure the passengers.

When afraid and in doubt, when darkness surrounds us, this song reminds us to call upon the Lord, our salvation.

It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford

This hymn was written at a time of great suffering and loss. Its author Horatio was a believer in times of great pain and sorrow. His trials started with the death of his son and the Great Chicago Fire that ruined his businesses in 1871. Two years later, on a ship bound for England, he lost all four of his daughters to a shipwreck. It is out of these events that Horatio wrote: When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say; It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Horatio’s hymn can be used during times of sorrow and persecution, to remind us to fix our eyes upon the Lord, and remain faithful.

Message from the Hymns

A common theme in all the hymns above is that in times of trouble, as Catholics we should know where to seek for help. As Christians, when in doubt, in fear, when persecuted and when uncertain, we must seek the Lord, our salvation.

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Catholic Repression in China

Although the Communist Party of China has always sought to suppress religion, the last few years have witnessed the worst wave of persecution since the days of Mao’s cultural revolution. Aided by more capable state control mechanisms and technology, China is taking its persecution of Christians to new heights. In today’s wave of repression, many more churches are being shut down and churchgoers detained. In those that remain, the government is utilizing facial recognition surveillance to monitor the congregation of believers. More disturbing is the fact that the state is planning to rewrite the word of God to conform to its communist ideology. Despite these troubling developments, a voice of hope can still be heard as the Catholic Church stands with its faithful in China.

Repression Through Technological Control

Among China’s new high-tech tools of control are a facial recognition surveillance system and a social credit application. Churches all around China have been fitted with a 24-hour CCTV system that some say is capable of facial recognition. The largest church in Beijing was shut down last year after its pastor refused an order allowing face-recognition cameras to be installed in his pulpit. Moreover, China is discouraging religion through a social credit app dabbed ‘Study the Great Nation.’ Among its many functions, is a scoring system that ranks citizens according to their loyalty to the communist party and its ideals. Subscribing to the Catholic faith detracts from one’s social credit. If one’s credit gets too low, they cannot access permission to leave the country. 

Churches Shut Down, Believers Detained

There are two forms of the Catholic Church in China. One includes the unofficial, underground Catholic churches and the other is the Patriotic Church that is controlled and sanctioned by the government. Many of the more than 10000 underground churches in China have already been shut down. In others, there are reports that crosses are being dismantled and in some cases replaced with portraits of President Xi. Government sanctioned churches have also not been spared. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Henan (which is approved by the government) had its priest detained and defrocked. Catholic Bishop Peter Shao Zhuminof Wenzhou is reported to have undergone weeks of state indoctrination and interrogation. Similarly, Catholic Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding has spent 20 years in prison for conducting mass without permission from the state.

Rewriting Scripture

Adding to the fact that Bibles can no longer be purchased online in China, the Chinese government is now planning a rewriting of the Scripture to suit its Communist Party agenda and ideology. The new translation is set to include annotations from Chinese sources to make it more appealing to Chinese communist ideology. In a process dabbed Sinicization, the government has sanctioned the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Christian Council to re-orient the bible to promote socialism in a time span of five years. 

The Vatican Response

In recognition of the targeted persecution of those professing the Christian faith in China, Pope Francis prayed for Chinese Catholics on May 22nd, 2019, asking Mother Mary to intercede for them. Earlier on May 13th, 2019 the Vatican Secretary of State told Chinese media that he believed that the Vatican and China could work together. Talking about Sinicization, he said that it does not have to conflict with the Christian faith and could be a means of dialogue and understanding. On September 2018, The Holy See and China signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops, a move that has been viewed as creating increased trust between the two sides. The agreement though is still yet to be fully implemented by the Chinese government as U.S ambassador for International Religious freedom noted that China still continues to abuse members of the Catholic faith. One such instance is a published reward by Guangzhou’s Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs offered for information of religious groups leading to the arrest of religious leaders.

Message of Hope

Saint Timothy wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12 that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Even so, there is hope for the faithful. Speaking on behalf of the Pope, the Vatican Secretary of State encouraged Catholics living in China to take courage as they proclaim the gospel. Pope Francis encouraged all Catholic faithful in China telling them that our Heavenly Mother will come to their aide as they fight to be in the communion of the universal Church.

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Tirupati: Evangelist Sudhir arrested

Special teams were rushed to Hyderabad and Nuzvid on Wednesday, while Sudhir was found after midnight at his Nuzvid address, from where he was arrested under Section 3 of the AP Propagation of Other Religions in Places of Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Act 2007.

In a swift move, the Tirupati Urban Police arrested Mondithoka Sudhir, founder director of the Hyderabad-based Emmanuel Baptist Ministry of India (IBMI), from his Puterala residence in Vissannapet mandal of Krishna district in the early hours of Thursday. He has been remanded to judicial custody.

For the record, Sudhir’s blasphemous video on Lord Venkateswara, shot during the Samaikyandhra agitation in September 2013, had gone viral. Pretending as gullible devotees, Sudhir and his team members surrendered a copy of The Bible and other missionary material to the security staff at Alipiri check point before proceeding to Tirumala along with a video camera.

Based on a complaint lodged by advocate Samanchi Srinivas, who is also the BJP district general secretary, and following a hue and cry from various quarters, police swung into action and registered a case (Crime No.100/14 at Tirumala Two Town Police Station). A similar case was registered at Alipiri Police Station based on a complaint by the TTD Assistant Vigilance and Security Officer.

Special teams were rushed to Hyderabad and Nuzvid on Wednesday, while Sudhir was found after midnight at his Nuzvid address, from where he was arrested under Section 3 of the AP Propagation of Other Religions in Places of Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Act 2007. Police also seized his laptop, which was used to upload the video, and his four-wheeler on which he travelled to Tirumala. A manhunt has been launched to nab his younger brother Sukumar and pastors David, Joseph and Yesu Ratnam for complicity in the offence.

Speaking to the media, Sudhir confessed to the offence and termed it as “unfortunate”. A postgraduate from Acharya Nagarjuna University, he said his intention was to spread the message and not merely to raise funds from foreign missionaries. While indicating that it was his first “negative attempt” to portray a faith in bad light, Sudhir also promised that it would be his last.

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Prayer for the Persecuted

COMMITMENT TO EGYPT’S NEW CONSTITUTION QUESTIONED AFTER ‘BLASPHEMY’ CHARGE

Kerolos Shouky Attallah, is accused of violating Article 98F of the Egyptian Penal Code for “liking” a Facebook page of Christian converts known as the Knights of the Cross. On January 14 and 15 of this year, a referendum was passed on a new constitution in Egypt. According to supporters, it ensures the basic rights of free speech and belief for Egyptians, but the existence of a blasphemy law in Egypt, is a violation of Egypt’s new constitution, which was supposed to take effect on January 18. Pray Egypt will commit to its new constitution. Pray all accusations and charges against Attallah are dismissed. Pray our merciful God will continue guiding and protecting our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

ARKANSAS CONGRESSMAN INTRODUCES BILL TO GRANT MERIAM PERMANENT LEGAL STATUS IN THE U.S.

United States, June 10, 2014: In the latest development on Capitol Hill regarding the case of Meriam Ibrahim, Arkansas Congressman Tom Cotton has introduced a bill that would grant Meriam Ibrahim, as well as her two children, permanent resident status in the United States. Meriam was sentenced to death by hanging last month in Khartoum, Sudan, after refusing to give up her Christian faith. She is currently imprisoned with her 20-month-old son Martin and newborn daughter Maya in Khartoum. Cotton stated, “I am disappointed by the Obama administration’s inaction and urge them to grant Meriam permanent legal status.” Pray the Obama Administration will act on behalf of Meriam Ibrahim and her family. Pray for the passage of legislation that would grant Meriam Ibrahim, as well as her two children, permanent resident status in the United States. Pray for Meriam’s speedy and safe release.

BOKO HARAM ABDUCTS AT LEAST 20 WOMEN FROM FULANI VILLAGE NEAR CHIBOK

Nigeria, June 09, 2014: Suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped at least 20 young women in Nigeria, near Chibok where more than 200 schoolgirls were taken two months ago, local officials said. The suspected militants came into the village in broad daylight on Saturday, heavily armed and wearing military uniforms. The location of the women is still unknown and the kidnappers have not made contact with their families. Pray all the kidnapped women and girls are safely returned to their families. Pray those who persecute God’s children, seek salvation in Christ Jesus. Pray for the victory of all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

BJP VICE CHAIRMAN CALLS ON NEPAL TO IMMEDIATELY AND COMPLETELY BAN RELIGIOUS CONVERSIONS

Nepal, June 09, 2014: According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), BJP vice chairman Bhagat Singh Koshiyari called for a legal ban on conversions during his visit to Nepal. The timing of the call is sensitive as Nepal’s Constituent Assembly is in the process of drafting a new constitution. “Mr Koshiyari’s comments are of concern. They appear to be an attempt to persuade Nepal not to include freedom of religion in the new constitution and laws of Nepal,” said CSW’s chief executive Mervyn Thomas. Pray Nepal will disregard the request of Koshiyari and stand for their people. Pray the new constitution will include freedom of religion and allow our brothers and sisters to worship and share God’s word. Pray Nepal will receive the Word of our God and be saved in Christ’s name.

NORTH KOREA UNLEASHES CRACKDOWN ON CHRISTIANITY

North Korea continues to detain or repatriate its citizens with ties to the church in China. According to Daily NK, “personnel from a number of state organs, including the State Security Department, General Reconnaissance Bureau and diplomatic corps, have received additional orders on the matter.”  One of the victims, South Korean missionary Kim Jung Wook, is currently serving a life sentence for “anti-state crimes.” Pray the enemy of of our Almighty God will not be successful in bringing persecution and injustice to Christians in North Korea. Pray for the release of all imprisoned Christians in North Korea. Pray for the renewing of strength and comfort of our brothers and sisters in North Korea.

KYRGYZSTAN PASTOR KEPT FROM BROTHER’S FUNERAL BY LOCAL IMAM

Kyrgyzstan, June 06, 2014: In the village of Zherge-Tal, Imam Arstan stopped Protestant pastor Kapar Yusup uuly Abdukayimov from participating in the burial procession of his deceased 51-year old brother Japar Abdukayimov. “Imam Arstan insulted me with all kinds of unrepeatable words, calling me a traitor, and told people at the procession this will happen to anyone who leaves Islam and accepts Christianity or other religions,” Pastor Yusup uuly told Forum 18.  Numerous Kyrgyz Christians in recent years were not allowed to be buried in their local villages, and several were buried in other cemeteries used by Russian Orthodox. Pray that in future cases like these, Christians will be able to bury their loved ones in their own villages. Pray for the comfort of our Lord to come upon Pastor Yusup and his family through these dark times. Pray Imam Arstan will receive the true Word of God and be saved.

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Bishops hope new government will uphold secularism

The top body of Catholic bishops in India has congratulated National Democratic Alliance, led by BJP, on its thumping win in the general elections, hoping that the new government will uphold eternal values and secularism in making India a great nation.

“Let the new government led by BJP enable the India of Mahatma Gandhi stand tall among the world nations ensuring protection, security, welfare and sustained development of the people of all sections,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said in a statement.

He hoped that the new government will continue to uphold the eternal values, secularism and principles of democracy to lead the nation on the path of development.

Reaffirming the Catholic Church’s support to the government’s activities in the process of nation building, he said that the new Government has the responsibility to ensure the security of the minorities and to show special consideration towards the weaker sections of the country.

The Catholic body advised Congress party to learn from experience and perform as a creative force in the opposition knowing the pulse of the public.

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SC stays Veerappan aides’ hanging for 6 Weeks

Hanging of four aides of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan has been further delayed with the Supreme Court on Wednesday extending its interim order staying the execution of death sentence imposed on them for killing 22 police personnel in a landmine blast in Karnataka in 1993.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir said it was keeping the matter pending since another bench, which has heard an identical plea, has reserved its judgement.

“In our view, the proper course of action is to adjourn the matter until another bench renders its judgement on similar matters. Therefore, accordingly we adjourn the hearing of this matter for six months to enable another bench to deliver the judgement in another pending matter.

“As a consequence, the interim order staying the execution of petitioners (Veerappan aides) passed on February 18 shall continue” until further orders, the bench also comprising justices A R Dave and Vikramajit Sen said.

The bench noted that the subject matter of the petition was relating to the right of the death row convicts to get their sentence commuted to life imprisonment on account of delay of execution of their death sentence.
“This is the main question involved when this matter was taken by us. It was brought to our notice that other writ petitions involving the same issue were heard by a bench of two judges in which senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and T R Andhyarujina were requested as amicus curiae,” the bench said.

Veerappan’s elder brother Gnanaprakash and his aides Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran were awarded death sentence in 2004 in connection with a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993 in which 22 police personnel were killed.

Their mercy petition was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 13 and they are presently lodged in a jail in Belgaum in Karnataka.

A TADA court in Mysore had in 2001 sentenced them to life term which was enhanced to death sentence by the apex court.

Gang leader Veerappan was killed in an encounter with the Tamil Nadu Police in October 2004.

The apex court also noted that the judgement in the writ petition heard by another bench on the issue was reserved on April 19, 2012.

The bench said it has been informed by Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval that while considering the two writ petitions, of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and M N Das, the other bench had the occasion to consider similar matters in which the mercy petitions were pending before the President.

The CJI said that since another bench has already heard and reserved its judgement on the issue, there is a possibility that the pleas of Veerappan aides can be heard by the same bench also.

The court is hearing two petitions, out of which one was filed by the four convicts and the other by advocate Samik Narain, on their behalf.

Urging the apex court to intervene, the four death convicts pleaded that a decision on their mercy petition has been delayed by nine years and as per its earlier order they are entitled to seek remedy for undue long delay in the execution of the sentence of death.

“Nine years delay in disposal of the petitioners’ mercy petitions has given them a right to approach this Court or the High Court to seek a commutation of the sentence of death,” the petition said.

On the last date of hearing, the court gave Narain the liberty to amend and rectify the petition after objections were raised on its maintainability by Attorney General G E Vahanvati who was asked to assist the court.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the four convicts, had said their execution should be stayed as another apex court bench had reserved its order on a plea for commuting death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea.

Gonsalves had referred to the petitions filed by the two condemned prisoners, Bhullar and Das, on whose plea for commutation of capital punishment to life term on the ground of delay, the apex court reserved its verdict in April last year.

The bench earlier had said that hearing this matter may also have a bearing on the petitions filed by the death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case against the rejection of their mercy petition.

The apex court had on May 1 last year had decided to adjudicate itself the pleas of Rajiv Gandhi killers — Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan alias Arivu — against their death penalty due to the delay of over 11 years in deciding their mercy petitions by the President.

The Madras High Court had earlier stayed their hanging and had issued notices to the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government.

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