PERSECUTED Christians in Iraq and Syria were hailed as “modern-day martyrs” in the annual UST Martyrs’ Week at the Faculty of Sacred Theology last September 22 to 26.

With the theme “Called to Serve, Heroes of Faith,” Martyrs’ Week honored Christians in Iraq and Syria who were killed by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In his homily during the opening mass, Secretary General Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P., said martyrdom had become inevitable, with Christians being persecuted in various places around the world.

“We see all over the media Christians being crucified and tortured simply because they were born and raised under the Catholic faith,” Cabading said.

Cabading said Iraq and Syria, countries in civil war, had huge Catholic populations before ISIS managed to take control a number of territories. Extremists have persecuted Christians and religious minorities, such as the Yazidis, in their bid to establish an Islamic caliphate. More than a million people have fled their homes after being given the ultimatum by the group to convert to Islam or face death.

Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P., dean of the Faculty of Sacred Theology, said the Christians executed by Islamic extremists had shown acts of faith and enough courage to leave a legacy to modern Christians. “The foundation of faith that leads to martyrdom is the faith that can withstand the test of time and adversities. It is clinging to the truth about Christ whatever the consequences may be,” Aligan said in his homily during the closing Eucharistic celebration last Sept. 26.

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Aligan said the red vestments worn by Dominican priests during Holy Mass symbolized the blood that the modern martyrs had shed for their faith. “This [wearing of the red vestment] is to remember the martyrs who gave their lives in order to live under the teachings of God,” Aligan said.

The celebration of Martyrs’ Week should help Christians remember the true meaning of the Catholic faith, he added.

“To be Christ-like, one has to suffer,” Aligan said.

Martyrs’ Week ended last Sept. 26 with a “Candle Walk” at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church and around the campus, participated in by students from different colleges and the Central Seminary. Images of Thomasian martyrs were raised during the procession.

Last September, the Simbahayan Community Development Office started a fund-raising drive for victims of persecution in Iraq. A total of P99,343 was sent to the French Dominicans (see related news story).

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