Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Persecuted and Forgotten? Why the Silence around the Persecution of Christians
"The persecution of Christians in our world today amounts to a human rights disaster. It is a catastrophe that has been ignored by the media, almost as if a news black-out has been enforced."
"What it amounts to is a human rights disaster of epic proportions and action is urgently needed at all levels. Silence and inaction are inexcusable."
The most puzzling aspect of the widespread, worldwide, anti-Christian violence, is the almost complete non-coverage it receives by the establishment media. Reading the report on anti-Christian violence, put out by Aid to the Church in Need, I kept thinking to myself, Why have I not heard about any of this?
Glancing through religious news sources and foreign news sources, it is obvious and present almost daily. But in American news sources, nothing... Why?
It is easy to blame the Liberal, Jewish, Neo-con cabal which controls the news.
--To liberals and Jews, Christians are just getting what they deserve, and they would hardly want to stir up the Christian masses with stories of Christian victimization.
--To a Neo-con, the military-industrial complex IS America, and the Christian Right is one of their biggest supporters. They would hardly want to highlight how American militarism is causing Christian deaths overseas, as it might cause Christians to question their commitment to all this overseas militarism.
The Role of Implicit Racialism
However, aside from the obvious Liberal/Jewish/Neo-con cabal that attempts to control the news supply, the lack of caring about the world's Christians also demonstrates the implicit RACIALISM of the American view of Christianity, highlighting a lack of demand for such coverage. I would say that for the vast majority of people in America, Christianity is thought of as a European religion. [Opponents of Christianity in non-White communities explicitly make their case on that ground: "Don't convert to the White man's religion" they say.]
The idea of BROWN Christians, especially, really is a mental blank spot, it just doesn't register. This is particularly problematic, because it is brown Christians who are absorbing the brunt of the world's anti-Christian violence, which occurs in Muslim and Hindu lands. To be sure, black Christians in Africa and yellow Christians in SE Asia are also affected in the Muslim countries in those regions.
The Cause of Rising Persecution Against Christians
The reports highlights the widespread recognition that Christians of the world are paying for America's military adventurism in Muslim countries. As quoted in the report:
"The 2006 Persecuted and Forgotten reported on a post 9/11 Islamist backlash against Christians, many of whom have faced the largely bogus charge of being pro-US. In many Muslim countries, Christians have felt they are paying the price for "the greed and iniquities of the Western nations", as Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore put it in a statement to ACN."
I encourage everyone to glance through some of their country-by-country reports. It is extremely eye-opening. I have excerpted some key elements of the introductions below.
Running through the book are two prevailing themes which go in opposite directions... The second and more dominant theme is the rising tide of extremism in a number of Islamic countries; in many such regimes, the persecution towards non-Muslims and especially Christians is so severe that the Church's very survival is now under threat. ... In the last two years, anti-Christian radicalism has dramatically worsened amid a rising tide of fundamentalism.
The intolerance has fed off increasing anti-West sentiment and the fall-out from the so-called 'War on Terror'. Now, in key regions, Christians are told: abandon your faith or face the consequences. For some, failure to comply means eviction from their homes, violence and even murder. An age-old atmosphere of co-existence and even friendly relations has suddenly soured.
For many Christians the pressure has proved too great. Many no longer feel welcome in an Islamic society reducing them to dhimmi status (i.e. a non-Muslim subject of a state governed by Shari'a law). Stripped of basic human rights, they receive little or no protection in court. Furthermore, they face extra taxation, suffer discrimination in the workplace, are pressurised to convert to Islam, and are forced to comply with a strict dress code, including the veil.
But by far the most significant problem is the threat of a charge of proselytism. Far from being a question of haranguing people in the street with Christian literature or 'Bible bashing' on the radio, in some Muslim countries the threat involves the mere presence of a church or a cross or even a passing comment to a stranger. It is an offence punishable by imprisonment, the lash or worse. Meanwhile, Muslims who convert – men especially – are threatened with the death penalty and almost certainly must go into hiding and seek asylum abroad.
In response to such intense intimidation, the emigration of Christians from some Muslim countries has now become a mass exodus. ... Christians in the region feel abandoned to their fate by a culture in the West marked by ignorance and ambivalence.
Looking beyond the Middle East, Persecuted and Forgotten? 2007/2008 identifies other countries affected by the rise of Islamic radicalism. Among them is Algeria where by summer 2008, half of Algeria's 52 Protestant churches were reportedly closed – all within six months.
Elsewhere, when Pakistan's Catholic bishops met Benedict XVI at their five-yearly 'Ad Limina' meeting in June 2008, they told the Pope that attitudes towards the Church had changed beyond recognition. Archbishop Saldanha, president of Pakistan's Catholic Bishops' Conference, reportedly said to the Pontiff that in the past the Church was respected for its work in education and medicine. "But today", he continued, "we carry out our mission in a hostile and conservative Islamic milieu that is increasingly extremist, intolerant and militant."
The long-term outcome of such renewed pressure on Christians is unclear but what is beyond doubt is that across the Islamic world, the Church is threatened as never before. The Pope hails "the shining witness of those... heroic to the point of martyrdom". It is Aid to the Church in Need's task to hold up this "shining" example for all the world to see.
from the 2011 report:
The rise of extremist Islam is well documented as a worldwide phenomenon. The sheer number and variety of attacks show that all groups – including many Muslims – are potential targets. What seems to have changed however is that Christians in Muslim countries are now especially vulnerable and those responsible for crimes against them are quite open about their contempt for the Church.
By 2011, organisations promoting human rights for Christians were noting the increased threat posed by Islamism, especially extremist movements originating in Saudi Arabia. The long-standing justification for Islamist attacks against Christians is related to heightened sensitivity concerning Christian proselytism and allegations of disrespect shown to the Qur'an and the Prophet Mohammed.
Extremists increasingly link local Christians in their countries to the West. According to Islamists, leading nations – especially the USA – stand accused of being latter-day crusaders intent on supplanting Islam in its homelands. As they are in most cases unable to attack Western countries direct, many extremists turn their fire on local Christians.
There is also a new factor to consider. As witnessed in Iraq and in some other countries, the express wish of the extremists is undoubtedly to wipe out Christianity from their land. The attacks in Mosul in 2008-09 and the October 2010 siege of the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad are two obvious examples of this. In both cases it became apparent that extremists sought the removal of the country's Christian presence.
In the 2008 edition of Persecuted and Forgotten? the question concerning the Middle East seemed to be about the gradual decline of Christianity into obscurity. Now the question is much more painful: will future historians say of us that we were firsthand witnesses to the extinguishing of Christianity in the very countries where the light of our faith first took hold? Nor is this just a question for Christians in Muslim countries. Elsewhere in his 2009 pastoral letter, Patriarch Twal states that in Jerusalem, (Palestinian) Christians were now 1.1 percent compared with 20 percent 60 years previously. This comes at a time when Christian leaders in Israel have reported a hardening of attitudes against Christians amid signs that an intolerant hard-line Judaism is in the ascendancy.
And this points to another key theme of 2011's Persecuted and Forgotten?: that in non-Muslim countries too there have been manifest signs of increasing radicalisation of religious groups and a corresponding growing antipathy to Christianity. This is especially visible among Hindu extremists in India as witnessed by the 2007-08 outbreaks of persecution in the state of Orissa, violence subsequently replicated in much smaller incidents in very different parts of the country. For the extremists who damaged 6,000 homes and caused the displacement of more than 50,000 people, an attack on Christianity was an act of patriotism.
Christianity was seen as inextricably linked to Western liberalism and hence was a threat to the God-given identity of the nation-state. In Burma, the military junta attacked Christians as a strategic strike against both ethnic rebels and other forces deemed to be undermining the country's staunchly Buddhist identity. Taken as a whole, a politicisation of religion has widened and deepened the problem of Christian persecution.