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.


Anonymous said...

It's easy to claim that Christians are being persecuted but I guarantee that the treatment of Jews (if they even exist) in these Muslim countries is far worse (as documented for a VERY long time). Nevertheless, a victim mentality is looked at as being weak so I'm not suprised the Christians in the USA don't want any part of that (most likely THAT's why you're not hearing much about this). In addition, the charge of prostletizing is a fairly easy one to make against many Christians because they historically actually HAVE tried to convert (or, at the very least "discuss" their beliefs with) the indigenous populations of the Countries where they live (including the US itself).

Φ said...

Well, like you said, when you consider that the moral worldview of the people that run the media hasn't really changed since 15th century Spain (and stretches in Eastern Europe and Russia), it's not surprising that the idea of Christians as the victims of persecution Does. Not. Compute.

Also in consideration of their ethnic background, we should expect our media overlords to be obsessed with Israel. And unfortunately, this obsession finds resonance with Christians primed for it by (speaking loosely) millenarian theology.

There is something to idea that the Israel obsession sucks up all the political oxygen we can devote to world issues.

But that said, I'm skeptical of the claim that persecution of native Chrisitans is much a function of (again, loosely speaking) Western imperialism. I'm now a critic of our military interventions the world over, but I don't see much cause and effect at work here. Even the governments we ourselves have installed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who continue to welcome our presence, nonetheless are intolerant of any religious minorities.

Beligerant nationalism, into which religion, especially Islam and Hinduism, has been well integrated, has gained in strength across the non-European world. I'm not sure why that is, but nor am I sure that it can be explained by the Iraq Attaq or whatever.

Justin said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Anon, I'm not sure why you would assume attacks on Jews would be greater, or why they would be unpublished. If you know of any studies uncovering a "media silence on Jewish victimization", please, do share.

Phi, I think the cause-effect is the idea that Western imperialism is causing a rise in Islamic fundamentalism. A side effect of I.F. is that religious minorities are suppressed, because of their greater obedience to Islamic law. You may be correct that there is no direct causation.

JI said...

I agree with you that Western militarism has played a role in the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, but that is not the only cause. The ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood (political Islam) has been spread for many years now by Saudi Arabia, the key ally of the US. The petrodollars have contributed to a large extent on the growth of Islamism. One must not also forget that America and Britain have also encouraged Islamism over the years, seeing it as a countervailing force to Arab nationalism as well as communism, even to the extent of supporting armed extremists. This support continues today, e.g. in Libya and Syria. As much as Western leaders like to proclaim they are fighting terrorism, the real track record overseas is quite different.

Western political elites are not very interested in Christians overseas. (Neither are they at home either!) They are mainly concerned about maintaining the current economic order which works in their favour. Control of oil resources is a critical factor in this. So Saudi Arabia, the chief exporter of Wahabism with a terrible human rights record, is hardly criticised and is allowed to redefine the Islamic world according to its world view. This symbiotic relationship between America and Saudi Arabia is the real root of the spread of Wahabi ideology.

Worryingly the Muslim Brotherhood is now portraying itself as a 'moderate' form of Islam, and the West seems to have fallen for this. If the Middle East is going to be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which increasingly looks likely, the future doesn't look good for Middle East Christians.