Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh who by the action of God and the obedience of His blessed Mother, the God bearer, came to dwell among us, Emmanuel.
In November, I visited Pakistan to express solidarity with Christian
communities across the country, which have suffered much over recent
years. We remember the slaughter of innocent worshippers on Easter
Sunday 2016 in Lahore, and before that the attack on worshippers in
Peshawar at Christmas 2013 and many other incidents. Such attacks are
not only designed to inflict appalling suffering but also to sow fear in
the heart of Christian, and other minority communities.
visit I spoke with some of the survivors of these attacks, and I was
deeply moved and humbled by their extraordinary courage in continuing to
be faithful witnesses of Jesus. They spoke of knowing now more than
ever that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
In many parts of our troubled, uncertain world, Christian minority
communities along with other minorities are being similarly targeted. In
some places, this is motivated by a desire to eradicate the indigenous
Christian presence completely. These are acts not only of terror but of
genocide; criminal acts for which the international community must bring
those guilty to account. Yet although so vulnerable and often forgotten
and marginalised, our brothers and sisters are being courageous in the
Lord. Indeed, ‘God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’
(1 Corinthians 1.27).
In other places conflict and corruption have become so normal that the world forgets the suffering of the poor.
I ask your prayers for those of us who live in safety that we may not
be bystanders afar off, beating our breasts as we retire to the
security of our homes, but that we may draw nearer to the cross of
Jesus, stand there alongside our suffering brothers and sisters and be
ready to take our part in practical action for change. I pray that
Christ will strengthen all his people in our inner being with power
through the Holy Spirit to be faithful, to have courage and to live in
More than ever we need Christ like communities proclaiming the good
news of the gospel in word and action. In many countries there is no
persecution but there is apathy and complacency which leads us, in the
striking words of Pope Francis, to be practical atheists.
The measure of a Christ-like community is the extent to which it
holds the vulnerable and marginalised of the world at the centre of its
life. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, helped the Primates of the
Anglican Communion to see this at our meeting in January this year. He
has said elsewhere: ‘To live with Jesus is to live with the poor, to
live with the poor is to live with Jesus’ (Community and Growth, 1989).
More than ever, we have a strong sense of the unity of Christians.
God hears the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ that we ‘may be one, so
that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17. 21) and even
now is fulfilling his prayer. While we are deeply conscious today of
the ecumenism of blood, we also live in the ecumenism of hope and we are
called to an ecumenism of action. To live with the vulnerable and
marginalised, with Jesus Christ at the centre of our communities and at
the heart of our ecumenical relations, to act together out of love and
in love, love that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is also to live as
those who sow hope.
Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever
follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’
(John 8.12). John the Evangelist, in words that will be heard in many of
our churches during the forthcoming Christmas season, also strengthens
us with this message: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the
darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1.5).
In our common celebration of the light of Jesus coming into the
world, may we then encourage and build up one other, and so may the
Church in every place, united in suffering and in hope, shine with his
light and act with his strength, today.