Tuesday, July 02, 2013

FR. MURAD AND ARCHB. ROMERO


The murder of Fr. François Murad on June 23, 2013 in northern Syria has horrified and reviled the Christian world.  Internet reports included grizzly video footage of what was claimed to be Fr. Murad’s beheading, filmed while dozens of onlookers cheered and chanted “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”).  The video went viral, with outrage expressed in blogs and articles worldwide.”  U.S. Senator Ted Cruz called the video, “A grim reminder of why we should not give arms to these people,” and former Senator Rick Santorum lambasted it as proof of the need for a war against “radical Islam” on his Facebook page.  A conservative blog lamented that “President Barack Hussein Obama has spent 815 million U.S. taxpayer dollars equipping anti-Christian Syrian Muslim rebels.”  While there is no dispute that Fr. Murad was killed, the beheading video has been discredited.  Fr. Murad’s order has advised that his body was intact after his murder, the website that first posted the video is walking back its original report, and others say that the video was probably propaganda planted by Bashar al-Assad's regime. 
The entire episode reminds us of the dangers of manipulating martyrdom for political gain and, in particular, of the case of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero.  In the wake of Archb. Romero’s assassination, Rightists accused leftists” of the crime, “saying they hoped to create a martyr by killing Romero and creating the (false) impression that he had been killed by the far-right, therefore besmirching the right.  Following violence at Archb. Romero’s funeral, once again, the right blamed the left for the disturbances, even claiming that leftists “had planned to kidnap Romero’s body and casket.”  Both claims have been universally discredited.  The intervening years saw continual attempts by the left to use Archb. Romero “as their badge, as an emblematic figure”—in the words of Pope Benedict.  They claimed that his message vindicated their cause, which, ironically, had been the same false accusation by the right that led to Archb. Romero's assassination. 

Some lessons to draw: (1) In a complicated political climate, it is sometimes hard to tell what happened and it is better to wait till all the dust settles.  In the wake of the Romero assassination, the L.A. Times observed that, “it could just as easily have been the extreme left as the extreme right” who was responsible for the killing.  (2) In that confused setting, competing factions “could hope to reap advantage from [creating] anarchy” and confusion (this observation was about El Salvador but it can apply anywhere).  (3) As Pope Benedict observed about Romero, any manipulation comes at the expense of the subject—Fr. Murad or Archb. Romero: “How can we shed light on his person in the right way and protect it from these attempts to exploit it? This is the problem.” 
In Archb. Romero’s case, all the flagrant manipulation created delays in what many—including Pope Benedict—believe to be a worthy cause for the sainthood.   This is a danger that we should be conscientious to want to avoid, especially those who care about our faith and its martyrs.
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