These days I and my colleagues at Notre Dame and at Georgetown are busily preparing for a major international conference in Rome on December 10-12 on Christian responses to persecution. It arises from a research project that is sending fourteen leading scholars of global Christianity out to over 30 countries to look at these responses. I anticipate that responses will be highly varied, ranging among heroic resistance; fleeing for life; diplomatic accommodation to repressive regimes; forgiveness; taking up arms; interreligious peacebuilding; and martyrdom. We want to be careful and even-handed even though — well, in fact, because — we also work out of moral concern and a desire for solidarity.
Sometime, though, I come across a response to persecution that stops me in my tracks and I stand in awe. That is what happened when I read about the Archbishop of Saigon, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who was imprisoned in 1975 and held there for 13 years, nine of these in solitary confinement. Here is his story.