Today the church recalls the martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity probably two of the most well known names of the early martyrs. The first was a young mother from a wealthy family and the second her pregnant slave.
It is difficult not to see a connection between these brave women who held their ground and died for what they believed in what we now call Tunisia, and the women who even as I write this are risking their lives to stand up for what they believe in the same land and across North Africa. One of the surprising factors in the news-making events in Africa and the Middle East has been the prominent place of women.
While the protests are not religious per se they are an expression of one aspect of our belief in divine and natural law. As Catholics we believe that all human law must be measured against a higher law. The source of our basic rights is not the constitution but God. When we proclaim our belief in the sanctity of all human life, we simultaneously proclaim our belief that there exists fundamental rights that belong to every human being.
Eighteen centuries ago two women were martyred for refusing to surrender their god-given right to be Christians in the Roman empire. Let us pray that Perpetua and Felicity's intercession continue to empower not only women but all those who are struggling for those fundamental god-given human rights.