We may always think we live in times that have never been seen before or that bad things no longer happen because we have outgrown bad behavior, but man's inhumanity to man is constant.
When we decide that a segment of society, nay, humanity, is not important then we decide that they do not need human love, care, concern, or nourishment - that they are not human.
We can justify, within the context of our own thought, that we are doing what is "right" because we ourselves are not adversely affected by it or it falls under the principle of "out of sight, out of mind."
We can say "it is for the good of society, or for the good of the majority. We may determine that their lives are not as important as ours, that they should change, be like us, if they want us to respect or even acknowledge them.
The Martyrs of the Hulks were French priests and religious who refused to sign loyalty oaths that would in essence make them servants of the State rather than servants of God.
They were corralled away on rotting hulks of ships no longer sea worthy and left to rot and die with them. Starvation, poor sanitation, and neglect marked their days. If this sounds familiar, it is. We are reminded of the slave trade. Nowadays we use the term "ghetto" (or even "prison" if you want) to describe such living conditions as well as the social treatment that goes along with it.
It does not matter that these martyrs are white, not Jews, or African-American, or Irish, or East Indian, or Asian, or Hispanic, or any group that has been disenfranchised by the larger society. What matters is that we see this again and again, even though we call ourselves "enlightened." We look down on what we consider the ignorance in others and fail to take the plank out of our own eye.
Christ reminds us that to do for the least is to do for him. May the suffering of the martyrs give blessings to us! May we see their plight in the plight of others and hear their cries!
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our reception among you was not without effect. Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated, as you know, in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the gospel of God with much struggle. [As we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling. She began to follow Paul and us, shouting, “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She did this for many days. Paul became annoyed, turned, and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Then it came out at that moment. When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the public square before the local authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These people are Jews and are disturbing our city and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack on them, and the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison and instructed the jailer to guard them securely. When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake. (Acts 16:16-24)] Our exhortation was not from delusion or impure motives, nor did it work through deception. But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please human beings, but rather God, who judges our hearts. Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know, or with a pretext for greed—God is witness—nor did we seek praise from human beings, either from you or from others, although we were able to impose our weight as apostles of Christ. Rather, we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers. As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
-- 1 Thessalonians 2:1-24
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