Persecution of Christians continues

Agency reports 22 deaths in 2021

Unidentified gunmen opened fire and killed Fr. Rene Bayang Regalado, a Filipino priest, on Jan. 24, 2021, as he was preparing to return to St. John XXIII College Seminary in the village of Patpat, on the island of Mindanao, southern Philippines.

Fr. Regalado was known to locals as the “mountain priest.” He visited the most isolated communities on Mindanao, “advocating issues related to the life and urgencies of farmers,” according to Fides News Agency. His death added to a year of violence against church workers in 2021.

Each December, Fides News Agency, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, publishes a list of church ministers who died as a result of some form of violence. The most recent list was released Dec. 30, 2021.

According to Fides, 22 church workers around the world were killed in 2021. Among them were 13 priests, one religious brother, two religious women and six laypersons.

“None of them carried out striking feats or actions, but were ‘simply’ giving witness of their faith in contexts of impoverished, degraded social contexts, where violence is the rule of life, the authority of the state was lacking or weakened by corruption and compromises and in the total lack of respect for life and for every human right,” stated Fides. Kidnappings and abductions have led to numerous deaths.

While violence against Christians in the Middle East has garnered widespread attention, a majority of the pastoral care workers killed in 2021 were from Africa (11). The others served in the Americas (seven), Asia (three) and Europe (one). These deaths bring the number of murdered pastoral care workers killed worldwide to 536 since 2000.

Fides also acknowledges that its list is “only the tip of the iceberg.”

“The provisional list compiled annually … must therefore be added to the long list of many of whom there may never be news, who, in every corner of the world, suffer and even pay with their lives for their faith in Christ,” Fides said.

Preaching the Gospel and living the Gospel life continue to be hazardous for people of faith around the world. As Pope Francis reminds us, “There will always be martyrs among us: this is the sign that we are on the path of Jesus..”

Fides also paid tribute to other Catholics around the world, some catechists and others, such as “at least 35 innocent civilians” in Myanmar, who were killed in 2021.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, reported that, on Christmas Eve, inhabitants of the village of Mo So, including women and children, were killed by the military and their bodies set on fire.

“The fact that the bodies of those killed, burned and mutilated were found on Christmas Day makes this appalling tragedy even more poignant and sickening,” said Cardinal Bo. “As the rest of the world celebrated the birth of Christ with joy, the people of Mo So village suffered death, shock and destruction.”

As we begin a new year, let us remember the lives of all church workers around the world who suffer persecution and even death — from those ordained to those who sweep church floors. Let’s also pray that 2022 brings promise and hope for all who risk so much by bringing the light of Christ into the world.