January 20th is the optional memorial day of St. Fabian and St. Sebastian. Both were martyrs and persecuted for simply being Christian. Fabian holds the honor of being elected Pope but was not even a priest at the time of his election. Sebastian was a soldier who comforted the people he was about to kill. When the emperor found out that Sebastian was a Christian, he was ordered to be killed by a bowmen firing squad. There are many famous paintings of Sebastian with a dozen or so arrows sticking out of him. That isn't all he is famous for. He survived his execution and after being nursed to health, he confronted the emperor yet again and of course, was executed again. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes.
It must have taken tremendous courage to be a Christian in a time when they were hated. Even today we're no stranger to hate. The Nazi's hated the Jews, Lebanon hates Israel, the Puritans who escaped Europe from religious persecution came to North America only to persecute people who were not pure like them, European settlers hated the Native Americans because the Native Americans resented being forced off their land so they had the nerve to fight back. Other classes and groups of people we loved to hate in recent history: blacks, gays, women, Irish, Mexicans, English, French, Muslim, Japanese, rich people and even poor people.
In my town a business was going to build two halfway houses for people newly released from prison with arrest records. Everyone thought it was a noble idea and the purchase of the property was approved in a non-residential area. Then someone found out that the people living there could include the dreaded sex offender. As word spread like wildfire the next town hall meeting was filled to capacity by people protesting this halfway house rumored to be full of registered sex offenders. All permissions were rescinded. What is amazing is that when people thought these buildings would house drug dealers, gang members, burglars, robbers, wife beaters, drunk drivers, drug users, murderers and animal abusers, nobody had a problem with it because everyone deserves a second chance. But, if a 19 year old high school senior who had sex with his 16 year old high school sweetheart might move in - he is a child molester and rapist and nobody saw anything wrong with ostracizing him and everyone else along with him. Even though the halfway house was for anyone arrested, not just the good criminals like murderers, armed robbers and drug dealers.
When Charlie Hebdo was attacked by terrorists, the West united with rallies and protests reciting the phrase "Je suis Charlie." The West saw this as a statement in support for freedom of speech while the Islamic religion saw the rallies as an affront to the Prophet Muhammad. Neither party is wrong because of their cultural differences but it shouldn't be that difficult for either party to say they're sorry; maybe it is.
It is good to remember Fabian and Sebastian and their persecution. Both fought and peacefully stood up for what they believed. Did they have to die for it? Must history repeat itself?