Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Patron Saint for the Persecuted

A Greek boy, with a father from modern-day Turkey and a mother from modern-day Palestine, who grows up to be a soldier in the Roman army. George may be a fitting patron saint for an island whose 'locals' have emerged from many strata of immigration, and continue to do so.

Perhaps the key thing to remember about him is that he was a public servant who faced immense pressure over being a Christian in his place of work. He served Emperor Diocletian as a soldier, and when Diocletian ordered that every soldier should sacrifice to the Roman gods and every Christian in the army should be arrested, George refused to back down on his faith. When a combination of bribes and torture failed to break his will or his trust in Jesus, he was martyred 1710 years ago today.

As I've written before, Aidan is a much better candidate for a local patron saint of England (or in these parts, Boniface, a Devonian apostle to Germany). But George's story points to global issue. Discrimination against Christians in this country is nothing like the vicious  persecution experience in other places - topping the list is another megalomaniac emperor, followed by a raft of places where the official religion (Islam) holds totalitarian sway. But there are signs that our government and public sector culture is hardening against Christians, both globally and locally. There is a steady feed of stories of discrimination within the UK.

The challenge of St. George is for Christians to live with courage, integrity and generosity in the public sector and in the workplace, so that even those who oppose the Christian faith can't find fault in the behaviour and character of Christians. It also calls for Christians to have more confidence in what they believe in.  Only 8 years after George's death, an edict across the Roman empire gave official tolerance to the Christian faith. A year after that came the conversion of Emperor Constantine, and the rest is history.

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