A couple of weeks ago, the outdoor nativity was vandalized at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Manitou Springs. The Gazette reported the incident. Today, the Opinion column referred to my response in the original newspaper report. Click here to read today’s Opinion column. (The text is also below)
Desecrate something sacred to Islam — even joke about the religion — and a retaliatory beheading, bombing or mass shooting may ensue. Dead cartoonists are only the latest reminder
Desecrate something dear to Christians, and the victims will pray for the perpetrator and offer support.
For evidence, look to the latest local hate crime. A person or group recently desecrated four characters from the Nativity scene outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Manitou Springs. Characters in the display, including baby Jesus, were broken into bits. It is the second attack on local Catholic property in six weeks, after a statue of the Virgin Mary outside St. Andrew Kim Korean Catholic Church in Colorado Springs was vandalized repeatedly in October and November and destroyed on Thanksgiving.
The Manitou desecration included an upside-down cross painted on Mary, mother of Jesus, sending a powerful anti-Catholic message.
The priceless broken objects were created 20 years ago by Manitou artists Tina Riesterer and her husband, Ken. They modeled the characters after locals — including a handful of other well-known Manitou artists — who dressed in elaborate costumes and stood for hours while the couple hand-painted each figure.
Given the magnitude of the loss — and the extraordinary indignity committed against sacred objects — one might expect righteous anger from the victims. They are hurt, to be sure. But they do not seek vengeance.
“I am more concerned about the people who are hurting enough to do that,” said the Rev. Ronald Raab, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. “I realize this time of year brings out a lot of pain, loneliness and frustration, and people want to lash out maybe because they’re not heard or accepted by the church. If people ever wanted to talk about their pain, I’m certainly available to speak with them.”
He would probably pay their bills and feed them, too. Pope John Paul II visited Mehmet Ali Agca in prison, forgiving the man for trying to assassinate him. Agca placed flowers on the pope’s grave 30 years later.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron insists Christians are the most persecuted religious group, slaughtered and tortured daily for their beliefs. In his book “The Global War on Christians,” CNN correspondent John Allen illustrates how Christianity is “indisputably” the most persecuted religion. Supporting similar observations in his book “Christianophobia,” British author Rupert Shortt laments a “liberal blind spot” that makes Western politicians obtuse to persecution of Christians while being “very very sensitive to the perceived sufferings and complaints of Muslims.”
Few are more critical of Christians than atheist Bill Maher, but even he gets it. In September, Maher rebuked PBS anchor Charlie Rose for comparing Christianity to Islam.
“Vast numbers of Christians do not believe that if you leave the Christian religion you should be killed for it,” Maher said. “Vast numbers of Christians do not treat women as second-class citizens. Vast numbers of Christians do not believe if you draw a picture of Jesus Christ you should get killed for it.”
We know lots of domestic Muslims who love their neighbors and lead lives of charity and peace. But Maher cited a Pew poll of Egyptians that shows 82 percent favor stoning as punishment for adultery; 80 percent favor death for those who abandon Islam. Another survey found 61 percent of British Muslims think homosexuality should be punished as a crime. So, no, Christians and Muslims are not similar when viewed in a global context.
It is touching to see the contrast in a local priest’s compassionate response to a desecration on his lawn. But our cops and prosecutors are not men of the cloth. Treat this as a hate crime, hunt down a suspect and prosecute with vigor.