Swine Flu and the Persecution of Christians

There are 300,000 pigs in Egypt. According to the UN, they are in no danger of catching swine flu. There has been no reported case of the virus in Egypt. Nonetheless, the Egyptian government wants to slaughter all of the pigs in Egypt just in case. It just happens that the pigs in Egypt are all owned by Christians. After all, Muslims don’t eat pork.

Christian farmers have clashed with police in Cairo, but this hasn’t stopped the cull so far. If the swine flu runs its course without affecting Egypt it won’t matter, because authorities have said it is also a general public health issue. That would be a public health issue that hasn’t actually affected public health, of course. It will affect the livelihood of lots of Christians, but that’s just the price of being a Coptic Christian in Egypt.

Pearls Before Swine

I was discussing the number of Christians in the world with one of my classes and one boy questioned the number of worldwide believers. He doubted that the number was accurate. I agreed with him.

I explained that while demographic experts used a variety of data, that data was not always accurate. I explained that the Chinese government says there are 100 million Christians in China, while researchers at Shanghai University estimate the number is closer to 300 million, because most Christians in China worship in underground churches and are not recognised in the government’s figures. That would put the number of Christians in the world closer to 2.3 billion instead of 2.1 billion.

Then I made the mistake of explaining that many Christians in China and elsewhere are persecuted for their faith. Some kids, including the boy that questioned the numbers, thought that was pretty funny.

I don’t know why I then mentioned that they might have seen in the news that a British Christian who was working with handicapped children in Afghanistan was murdered just a couple of days ago. One girl laughed quite openly. I wanted to cry.

The Other Saint Boniface

When most people think of St Boniface, they think of the Apostle to the Germans – the patron saint of Germany and the Netherlands who died in 754. Today, however, is the commemoration of another Boniface who was martyred in about 290 in St Paul’s hometown of Tarsus.

He was from Rome. After he and his rich lover (some say he was he was also her slave) repented of fornication, he went East where there was great persecution going on, to gather relics of martyrs to make sure they were cared for properly. When he got to Tarsus, he found Christians being martyred in the city centre. He rushed to them to ask for their prayers and declared to the authorities that he was a Christian.

They beat him and tortured him by methods that vary somewhat in the relating of the story, but all include that his tormenters poured molten tin or lead down his throat. He was unharmed by this, as well as by being thrown in boiling tar. They finally got him with sword parting his head from his shoulders.

St Boniface is a clear testimony to the adage that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The miracles surrounding his death caused several hundred people to embrace Christ. His own relics were returned to Rome where his erstwhile lover built a church over his grave. As is the custom with martyrs, the miracles just kept happening.

So when you think you are being treated a bit badly by those around you, especially if it for your faith, remember Holy Boniface and you probably don’t have it so bad.

St Boniface of Rome, pray to God for us!