Today celebrates many martyrs, especially Augustine Zhao Rong, his companions, and John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse. Augustine was one of the escort soldiers for Dufresse on his way to his execution. Moved by the patient example of Dufresse, Rong sought baptism and then ordination. Later he and some 119 of his companions - each a saint in their own rights and worthy of our honor - were killed for being Christian in a persecution that continued on for another 30 years.
Once we demonize a people, a person, or an idea, it is hard to undo the damage. The persecution of Christians (or any group for that matter) has very immediate results but the power quickly lags. It is hard to keep up official, sanctioned persecution. In the immediate moment it is harsh and difficult but really it is the lingering ignorant hatred that it fosters which holds the most power. That hatred, distrust, suspicion, and skepticism has a life of its own and waxes and wanes but never really goes away. That is the festering pool, simmering beneath the surface ready to boil over at any moment.
We see it everywhere and in all times. We see the retaliatory nature of it. Jews, Catholics, social, racial, economic groups - you name it. Waves and waves of hatred flowing and ebbing, but like the waves against the beach, constant, and in the end, erosive.
So it is the example of the martyrs that guides us. Bishop Dufrensse offered his life for Christ and the Chinese people, not just as a martyr but first as a missionary. As happens so often, his patience and kindness and lack of vitriol for his captors, his willingness to go to a peaceful death ended the cycle of violence even as it was happening and so inspired others to seek that peace. Rong carried that peace with him and gave it to others. The hatred and violence does not stop us unless we let it. It is patient correction and love that truly win the day.
Praise be to the Lamb that was slain!
They sang a new hymn:
“Worthy are you to receive the scroll and to break open its seals, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.” I looked again and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out:
“To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.”
-- Revelation 5:9-12