First, the good news:
Reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig have been released! Frabjous joy and glee! (Not to mention some serious relief.) This is a wonderful thing.
Now, the bad news:
Among all the other crapola they had to go through, Centanni says he and Wiig were forced at gunpoint to “convert” to Islam.
There are two reasons why this is a bad thing. First, Islam doesn’t actually recognize the concept that “anything done under duress doesn’t count”. So every Muslim they meet in their job from now on will expect Centanni and Wiig to obey Muslim law. If Centanni and Wiig announce that they’re not Muslims, they will be apostates. Apostates are pretty much fair game.
I don’t know Centanni and Wiig’s religious beliefs for sure. (I’ve heard Centanni’s Christian, but it’s not like you can easily look stuff like that up.) Still, doing anything under duress is psychologically no fun, and Centanni seemed particularly unhappy about this. But if Centanni and Wiig are Christians… well, it’s definitely no fun having to choose whether to confess one’s faith at gunpoint, when you have family at home you want to live for. But it’s also no fun to live knowing that you didn’t have the stuff of martyrs in you — or that you chose not to have it, anyway.
Moreover, while Christian tradition supports the idea that in every other matter, duress doesn’t count — the very essence from earliest times of being a Christian is that you will not deny your Lord, even under duress. That you will glory, in fact, in defying duress and declaring your faith.
But though Christians revere the martyr and the confessor, they also remember that one of the Apostles betrayed Jesus, one denied Him three times, and the other ten Apostles ran away.
But the one who denied Him lived with his sin, and asked for forgiveness. He was given charge of the sheep and lambs, and strength for his brethren.
And the one who ran away half-naked dared to stand at the foot of the Cross with Jesus’ mother, and so Jesus’ mother became as his own.
(And surely there would have been forgiveness for the betrayer, too, if he had been able to bear to ask it.)
So this is what I say, if Centanni and Wiig are Christian:
There are many of us who are offered the Cross every day, and many of us who, to our shame, refuse to carry it. But the Physician came to heal sinners, and the Church is full of patients as well as nurses. That is our shame, but our glory too. Sure, it’s shameful to sin, and this is a biggie. But the thing to do is not to let the wound fester. Go to the Physician and be healed, as quickly as you can. If he did it for Peter, he will do it for you.