The grim news has been unrelenting. Every week I read stories on the persecuted church around the world. But most of us never hear these stories because they rarely make it into the mainstream media.
If they do they are usually recast as stories of “ethnic violence.” I suspect this is because so many in the media are so committed to religious pluralism that, while it’s okay to criticize Christianity, criticizing other religions is off limits.
For example, since the beginning of the month of February there have been stories of church arrests in China, a Christian convert beheaded in Somalia, the government destroying Armenian places of worship in Turkey, Christian women assaulted after arrests in Saudi Arabia, a Muslim council in Egypt evicting eight Christian families and seizing their property, a pastor killed by drug traffickers in Guatemala, churches raided and ransacked in Algeria, two Texas missionaries murdered in North Mexico, Christians fleeing Nigeria to evade Islamist attacks, Hindu radicals attacking a pastor in India for showing a film about Jesus, and Islamists bombing Samaritan’s Purse Bible College in Sudan (For more see www.persecution.org )
But in the February 13th issue of NEWSWEEK, Ayaan Hirsi Ali gives us an unusual expose of the rise of “Christophobia” from one end of the Muslim world to the others. This is not your standard NEWSWEEK fare (which of recent has been extremely PC). This story certainly bucks that trend!
The article speaks about “an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives” where Christians are being killed especially in the Islamic world because of their religion. NEWSWEEK calls it “a rising genocide” and says it ought to provoke global alarm.
Also amazing is NEWSWEEK’S admission that this is “a major unreported problem.” The article questions the media’s reticence to highlight this issue, yet obsess on Islamophobia. It says, “the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.” Then the author bluntly says that “The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali offers a catalog of atrocities which highlights Nigeria, (where last year over 350 churches were destroyed), to Egypt (where last year some 200,000 Coptic Christians fled fearing a rising Islamic oppression), to Sudan (where Christians are subject to aerial bombardment, targeted killings and the kidnapping of children), to Pakistan (where Christians live in perpetual fear of not just terrorists, but of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws which are applied to anyone who contradicts Islamic doctrine). In many majority Muslim nations, Christian minorities have lost the protection of their societies.
To gain a little historical perspective on this, I suggest interested readers buy and read, The Lost History of Christianity: The thousand-year golden age of the Church in the Middle east, Africa, and Asia and how it died, by Philip Jenkins. (HarperOne, 2008.)
There, Jenkins tells the story of the church in the East and its gradual extermination over the centuries. He writes about the long story of Islamic conquest, dhimitude (with its overwhelming pressure to conform), and the “ratcheting up” of coercion to the point where all the ancient Christian communities in the Eastern world are all but annihilated. Tracing the story right up to the present, Jenkins says, “For all practical purposes, Middle Eastern Christianity has, within living memory, all but disappeared as a living force.” Jenkins ends this fascinating book with reflections on how we cope with the death of the church. It does not fit our usual storyline of inevitable Christian expansion or the idea that the blood of the martyrs is inevitably the seed of the church.
NEWSWEEK’S article affirms the importance of protecting Muslim minorities. But it says that this problem is miniscule compared to the growing Islamic persecution of Christians all over the world. We have, says NEWSWEEK, overblown the emphasis on Islamophobia, when the real problem is Christophobia which is infecting the Muslim world. NEWSWEEK is silent about the Christophobia coming from the secular West, but it does encourage people to speak up about the persecution of Christians. And it does call our government to use foreign aid, trade, investment, and diplomatic pressure to penalize those nations which continue this repression.
I rarely find myself praising NEWSWEEK these days. But on this occasion, I will not only praise the magazine, but encourage readers to buy this issue and spread the news.