August/ September 2018 - Vol. 99

Ecumenical Witness of Christian Martyrs
in Our Present Age

“We live in the greatest period of persecution in the history of Christianity. In the twentieth century, noble martyrs like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko gave their lives for Christ amid a cloud of witnesses greater in number than those martyred for the Name in the previous nineteen centuries of Christian history. That witness continues today in the self-sacrifice of men like Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian cabinet officer murdered because of his defense of the religious freedom of all of his fellow Pakistanis.

As Evangelicals and Catholics who seek to honor the witness of these and other martyrs, we pledge to work together for the renewal of religious freedom in our countries and around the world.

quote from Evangelicals and Catholics Together: In Defense of Religious Freedom

painting of Christ and 21 Coptic
A New Ecumenism of Blood

“Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox...They are witnesses to Jesus Christ, and they are persecuted and killed because they are Christians. Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong. They are Christians and for that they are persecuted. This, brothers and sisters, is the ecumenism of blood.”
- Pope Francis

“The ecumenism of suffering and of the martyrdom of blood are a powerful summons to walk the long path of reconciliation between the Churches, by courageously and decisively abandoning ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit.”
- Pope Francis' address to the Armenian Orthodox Patriarch

“The blood of martyrs is in the church a force for renewal and of unity.”
- Pope John Paul II

“The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him” (quote from The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer). When the German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was led from his cell to be executed by the Nazis, he told his prison companion: “This is the end – but for me, the beginning of life” (April, 1945).

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose...God, I pray Thee, light these sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.
Jim Elliot, Baptist missionary in Ecuador who was martyred with four companions in 1956

“I ask of you this day the grace to become a servant and to give my life here as a ransom for peace as a ransom for life. Jesus draw me into your joy of crucified love.”
- Journal entry by Father Christophe Lebreton who was martyred in 1996 along
with his six companion monks from the Trappist monastery in Algiers

Articles on Modern Christian Martyrs in previous issues of Living Bulwark

Witnesses in the Jungle: Jim Elliot and Fellow Missionaries, by Jeanne Kun
Heroes of Faith: The Witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Donald Bloesch
Stations on the Road to Freedom, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer 
A Soldier’s Higher Allegiance – Ivan Vasilievich Moiseyev, Russian martyr 
United in Love, the Trappist martyrs of Algeria, by Jeanne Kun 
Courage Forged Under Fire:The heroic witness and martyrdom of Sophie Scholl, by Don Schwager
Witnesses in the Jungle: Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and Fellow Missionaries
Blessed by the Cross: The Heroic Life of Edith Stein, by Jeanne Kun
Joy in the Face of Death: The Witness of Alfred Delp, by Jeanne Kun 
True Happiness: A Selection of Prison Meditations for Advent, by Alfred Delp

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