In The Spectator, Anthony Browne, European correspondent for The Times of London and a man with whom I once had the great pleasure of appearing on BBC Radio along with the illustrious jihadist leader Omar Bakri, reports on the world-wide persecution of Christians, beginning with post-Saddam Iraq (thanks to Mark Durie for the link):
For most citizens of Iraq, the invasion meant the end of tyranny. For one group, however, it meant a new start: the country”s historic Christian community. When the war stopped, persecution by Islamists, held in check by Saddam, started.
At a church in Basra I visited a month after the war ended, the women complained of attacks against them for not wearing the Islamic veil. I saw many Christian-owned shops that had been firebombed, with many of the owners killed for exercising their legal right to sell alcohol. Two years and many church attacks later, Iraq may still be occupied by Christian foreign powers, but the Islamist plan to ethnically cleanse Iraq of its nearly 2,000-year-old Assyrian and Armenian Christian communities is reaching fruition.
There is nothing unusual about the persecution of Iraqi Christians, or the unwillingness of other Christians to help them. Rising nationalism and fundamentalism around the world have meant that Christianity is going back to its roots as the religion of the persecuted. There are now more than 300 million Christians who are either threatened with violence or legally discriminated against simply because of their faith “” more than any other religion. Christians are no longer, as far as I am aware, thrown to the lions. But from China, North Korea and Malaysia, through India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, they are subjected to legalised discrimination, violence, imprisonment, relocation and forced conversion. Even in supposedly Christian Europe, Christianity has become the most mocked religion, its followers treated with public suspicion and derision and sometimes “” such as the would-be EU commissioner Rocco Buttiglione “” hounded out of political office….
Browne finds that, despite their power, Christian states or peoples seem remarkably unwilling to use any of that power or strength in defense of oppressed fellow Christians:
While Muslims openly help other Muslims, Christians helping Christians has become as taboo as jingoistic nationalism….
But just as Christian-majority armies control Iraq as it ethnically cleanses itself of its Christian community, so the power of Christian countries is of little help to the Christian persecuted where most Christians now live: the Third World.
Across the Islamic world, Christians are systematically discriminated against and persecuted. Saudi Arabia “” the global fountain of religious bigotry “” bans churches, public Christian worship, the Bible and the sale of Christmas cards, and stops non-Muslims from entering Mecca. Christians are regularly imprisoned and tortured on trumped-up charges of drinking, blaspheming or Bible-bashing, as some British citizens have found. Just last month, furthermore, Saudi Arabia announced that only Muslims can become citizens.
The Copts of Egypt make up half the Christians in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. They inhabited the land before the Islamic conquest, and still make up a fifth of the population. By law they are banned from being president of the Islamic Republic of Egypt or attending Al Azhar University, and severely restricted from joining the police and army. By practice they are banned from holding any high political or commercial position. Under the 19th-century Hamayouni decrees, Copts must get permission from the president to build or repair churches “” but he usually refuses. Mosques face no such controls.
This is in full accord with Sharia provisions forbidding Christians to build or repair churches — and yet learned commentators still maintain that Sharia is only found today in Saudi Arabia and Iran. And that’s true in terms of full implementation — but Christians still suffer in various ways as dhimmis all over the Islamic world. Read on:
Government-controlled TV broadcasts anti-Copt propaganda, while giving no airtime to Copts. It is illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity, but legal for Christians to convert to Islam. Christian girls “” and even the wives of Christian priests “” are abducted and forcibly converted to Islam, recently prompting mass demonstrations. A report by Freedom House in Washington concludes: “˜The cumulative effect of these threats creates an atmosphere of persecution and raises fears that during the 21st century the Copts may have a vastly diminished presence in their homelands.”
Fr Drew Christiansen, an adviser to the US Conference of Bishops, recently conducted a study which stated that “˜all over the Middle East, Christians are under pressure. “The cradle of Christianity” is under enormous pressure from demographic decline, the growth of Islamic militancy, official and unofficial discrimination, the Iraq war, the Palestinian Intifada, failed peace policies and political manipulation.”
In the world’s most economically successful Muslim nation, Malaysia, the world’s only deliberate affirmative action programme for a majority population ensures that Muslims are given better access to jobs, housing and education. In the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, some 10,000 Christians have been killed in the last few years by Muslims trying to Islamify the Moluccas.
In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, most of the five million Christians live as an underclass, doing work such as toilet-cleaning. Under the Hudood ordinances, a Muslim can testify against a non-Muslim in court, but a non-Muslim cannot testify against a Muslim. Blasphemy laws are abused to persecute Christians. In the last few years, dozens of Christians have been killed in bomb and gun attacks on churches and Christian schools.
In Nigeria, 12 states have introduced Sharia law, which affects Christians as much as Muslims. Christian girls are forced to wear the Islamic veil at school, and Christians are banned from drinking alcohol. Thousands of Christians have been killed in the last few years in the ensuing violence….
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Barnabas Trust, which helps persecuted Christians, blames rising global religious tension. “˜More and more Christians are seen as the odd ones out “” they are seen as transplants from the West, and not really trusted. It is getting very much worse.”…
You get the gist. Dr Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Centre for Religious Freedom in Washington, estimates that there are 200 million Christians who face violence because of their faith, and 350 million who face legally sanctioned discrimination in terms of access to jobs and housing. The World Evangelical Alliance wrote in a report to the UN Human Rights Commission last year that Christians are “˜the largest single group in the world which is being denied human rights on the basis of their faith”….
But the BBC, despite being mainly funded by Christians, is an organisation that promotes ridicule of the Bible, while banning criticism of the Koran. Dr Marshall said: “˜Christians are seen as Europeans and Americans, which means you get a lack of sympathy which you would not get if they were Tibetan Buddhists.”…
To this day, while Muslims stick up for their co-religionists, Christians “” beyond a few charities “” have given up such forms of discrimination. Dr Sookhdeo said: “˜The Muslims have an Ummah [the worldwide Muslim community] whereas Christians do not have Christendom. There is no Christian country that says, “We are Christian and we will help Christians.–…
Today is a good day to read the entire article. And to give it to others to read.