Under Caesar’s Sword: Scholars Launch Christian Persecution Research Program at University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University


A team of scholars, led by centers at the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University, was recently established to research, report on, and raise awareness about Christian persecution throughout the world. The Cardinal Newman Society spoke to Dr. Daniel Philpott, Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights director, about the new project titled Under Caesar’s Sword and how helping persecuted Christians goes to the heart of a Catholic university’s mission.

At a recent conference on religious freedom in Rome, Pope Francis stated his sentiments on the continued persecution of Christians in the world:

It gives me great pain to see that Christians around the world suffer the [lion’s share] of such discrimination… The persecution of Christians today is even more virulent than in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs today than in that era.

Religious persecution has grown more widespread in recent years, gaining much media attention during the ongoing ISIS/ISIL persecution of Christians in Iraq. Indeed, “the denial of the religious freedom of Christians is one of the largest classes of human rights violations in the world today,” Philpott explained in the project’s press release. Yet, he continued, “[T]he phenomenon is underreported in the mainstream media and the human rights community.”

Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights and Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs recently received a $1.1 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust to carry out the project’s research.

Those involved with Under Caesar’s Sword seek to compensate for the lack of media coverage about Christian persecution by bringing awareness to the nearly “100 beleaguered Christian communities” they are studying.

Philpott told the Newman Society that the 14 scholars commissioned for the project have “strong track records of conducting research on Christian communities who have lived under repression.” The team will be sent out “to study how these communities respond to repression with the intention of putting together their findings systematically and in a way that will be of actual assistance to persecuted Christians and to all who wish to act in solidarity with them.”

“One of the central goals of Under Caesar’s Sword is to live out the mission of our Catholic universities ​by acting in solidarity with persecuted Christians of the world,” Philpott said.

“Walking the way of the cross under persecution is the ultimate form of discipleship,” he continued. “Supporting those who are walking this walk — letting them know that we are here and seeking to alleviate their suffering where possible — is one of the most poignant ways in which Christians can ‘be the Church.’”

“Thus, when a university offers this support, it is acting as a Catholic university in a highly distinctive way,” he said.

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SOURCE: The Cardinal Newman Society
Kimberly Scharfenberger

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