The New Martyrdom: Christians in Peril

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What do these nations below have in common?  Quick answer:  they all persecute Christians.  What’s more, thirty-seven of them are Muslim nations:

  1. North Korea
  2. Somalia
  3. Syria
  4. Iraq
  5. Afghanistan
  6. Saudi Arabia
  7. Maldives
  8. Pakistan
  9. Iran
  10. Yemen
  11. Sudan
  12. Eritrea
  13. Libya
  14. Nigeria
  15. Uzbekistan
  16. Central African Republic
  17. Ethiopia
  18. Vietnam
  19. Qatar
  20. Turkmenistan
  21. Laos
  22. Egypt
  23. Myanmar
  24. Brunei
  25. Columbia
  26. Jordan
  27. Oman
  28. India
  29. Sri Lanka
  30. Tunisia
  31. Bhutan
  32. Algeria
  33. Mali
  34. Palestine
  35. United Arab Emirates
  36. Mauritania
  37. China
  38. Kuwait
  39. Kazakhstan
  40. Malaysia
  41. Bahrain
  42. Comoros
  43. Kenya
  44. Morocco
  45. Tajikistan
  46. Djibouti
  47. Indonesia
  48. Bangladesh
  49. Tanzania
  50. Niger

This shouldn’t come as any surprise.  As the Skeptical Inquirer reports, Islam currently poses the world’s greatest threat to human freedom, or to think for oneself.

You’ll note that this is a gradated list, with the worst offenders coming first, among them North Korea, a non-Muslim Stalinist holdout that persecutes Christians vigorously.  Estimates have it that between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians languish in prison camps, with few survivors likely, given the brutal conditions.  An unconfirmed report, says that  80 Christians were executed in November, 2013.  Change the regime, however, and the persecution will cease, as happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Ironically, today’s Russia is the one nation that has vigorously denounced the persecuting of Christians.

Not so for Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan–all former Muslim constituents of the Soviet Union–where persecution of Christians continues.

You’ll see that the list also features some U. S. allies like Saudi Arabia and even Kuwait, a Muslim nation we saved from Saddam’s incursion.

And, of course, we all know about Pakistan with its endless duplicity, a nation outraged by our killing of Osama bin Laden who had taken refuge there and a free haven for the Taliban.  Persecuting Christians is almost a sport in Pakistan, with Christians often accused falsely of violating blasphemy laws by those seeking their property.

But Kenya, a nation with a predominantly Christian population, is also on the list.  This is because Kenya also has a minority Somalian population.  Bombings are frequent as in the recent terrorist insurgency from Somalia itself, resulting in the Nairobi mall massacre in which Christians were deliberately targeted and Muslim hostages let go.

Meanwhile in Egypt, several hundred Coptic churches have been ransacked and many of them burned by deposed President Morsi supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood.

As in Kenya, a nation needn’t have a Muslim majority for Christians to be singled out.  Take, for example, the Central African Republic, which has been in the recent headlines.  Following a recent seizure of power by a Muslim in a county overwhelmingly Christian, the Muslim minority immediately began to kill Christians.  Here, Christians formed their own militias to wade off the attacks, successfully driving the usurpers from power.

Some of the worst scenarios for Christians are playing out in war-ravaged Syria, whose Christian community dates back to the first century and St. Paul, who was converted on his way to Damascus.   In 2013, 2,123 Christians died, representing a 100% increase over the previous year.  Assad, by the way, didn’t persecute Christians.  In some Christian towns, insurgents have given Christians the option of converting or being executed on the spot.  Priests have been killed; nuns taken hostage.

It’s conceivable that soon there will be no Christians left in the Middle East.  Consider Iraq:  Before our incursion in 2003, there were some 2 million Christians in Iraq.  Only about half now remain.  According to the UN Committee for Refugees, 850,000  Christians  have left at last count.  There may even be as few as 250,000 remaining.

Before the rise of Islam in the 7th century, the Levant and North Africa were actually largely populated by Christians.   St. Augustine, in fact, was a North African bishop. Then came the Arab invasions, spreading “the religion of peace” by the sword.  The truth is that Islam hasn’t changed very much across the centuries, in doctrine or behavior.  Unlike Christianity, it’s rooted in a fundamentalism that has stubbornly resisted reform.  It’s as though time stood still.  It’s questionable whether Islam can ever reconcile with the tenets of democracy, for what Islam fears most is divergent opinion.

But I also want to be fair.  I studied in France a number of years ago and came into contact  with a good many Muslims.  My politics, not my religion, was what mattered.  In fact, not once did faith enter into our conversations.  Additionally, I frankly sympathize with the Palestinians in their quest for nationhood and a return to 1967 borders.  I haven’t any quarrel with secular Muslims, whom militants place in the same company as Western “infidels.” I cherish the several friendships I developed that transcended religion and homeland, whether Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, or Iran.

Unfortunately, where persecution of Christianity does exist, it often generates from a perception of the West as anti-Muslim.  We give billions to Israel annually, much of it employed to buttress Israel’s military might.  Think, for a moment, how you would feel were your people strafed and bombed by Israeli pilots flying American fighter jets, or your lands appropriated by Israeli settlers feverishly supported by many American evangelicals.  We don’t have a good footprint when it comes to the Middle East.  I would even argue that our disregard for the Islamic culture and faith has made groups like al Quaeda possible, feeding on aeons of resentment.  Unfortunately, Christians are caught in the exchange.

Religion, like politics, can prove violent in absolutes giving no ground.  I despise the lingering animosities of every political and religious faction.  True progressives move past ideology to an embrace of the human family.  I also distain religionists who fashion deity into a human assemblage, or composite of ourselves, incumbent with our prejudices and capacity for malevolence.

I likewise dislike the silence of governments with regard to the assault on Christians in their pursuit of  the political game of expediency.  I find this as unsavory as militant Islam’s historical penchant to impose religious and socio-political hegemony.

I yearn for the day that moderate Muslims disavow the sword; that Israelis cease their apartheid; that the U. S. commits itself to genuine justice for those long denied.  I think of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:  “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

But do I wake or sleep?

–rj

About RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.
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