Western powers have likely been afraid that defending the rights of Christians in Muslim lands would be interpreted as showing partiality. It would not be partiality, of course, to demand impartiality in the protection of human rights by governments that claim in glowing generalities to have no problem doing just that.
Christians have lost heartbeats and heads while politicians dithered over “hearts and minds.”
Christians seem to have been written off as collateral damage for the sake of political expediency and wishful thinking. They have been a consistent casualty of fantasy-based foreign policy that accepts as dogma the “tolerance” of Sharia, whose proponents have been the main beneficiaries of the past year’s “Arab Spring.” “How can we remain silent while Christians are being persecuted?” by Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph, December 24:
Father Immanuel Dabaghian, one of Baghdad’s last surviving priests, is expecting a quiet Christmas. To join him in the Church of the Virgin Mary means two hours of security checks and a body search at the door, and even then there’s no guarantee of survival. Islamist gunmen massacred 58 people in a nearby church last year, and fresh graffiti warns remaining worshippers that they could be next.
The Americans have gone now, and Iraq’s Christian communities — some of the world’s oldest — are undergoing an exodus on a biblical scale.
Of the country”s 1.4 million Christians, about two thirds have now fled. Although the British Government is reluctant to recognise it, a new evil is sweeping the Middle East: religious cleansing. The attacks, which peak at Christmas, have already spread to Egypt, where Coptic Christians have seen their churches firebombed by Islamic fundamentalists. In Tunisia, priests are being murdered. Maronite Christians in Lebanon have, for the first time, become targets of bombing campaigns. Christians in Syria, who have suffered as much as anyone from the Assad regime, now pray for its survival. If it falls, and the Islamists triumph, persecution may begin in earnest.
The idea of Christianity as a kind of contagion that is foreign to the Arab world is bizarre: it is, of course, a Middle Eastern religion successfully exported to the pagan West. Those feet, in ancient times, came nowhere near England’s mountains green. The Nativity is a Middle Eastern story about a child born to a Jewish mother, whose first visitors were three wise Iranians and who was then swept off to Egypt to escape Roman persecution. […]
But Islam appropriates Jesus into its own narrative to neutralize claims about his divinity and make room for Muhammad (dying for mankind’s sins and rising from the dead are a tough act to follow). It claims Jesus as a Muslim, and posits its own revisionist account as true while rejecting the Gospels’ message about Jesus as false.
These dividing lines are now being made into battle lines by hardline Salafists, who are emerging as victors of the Arab Spring. They belong to the same mutant strain of Sunni Islam which inspired al-Qaeda. Their agenda is sectarian warfare, and they loathe Shia Islam as much as they do Christians and Jews. Their enemy lies not over a border, but in a church, synagogue or Shia mosque. The Salafists may be detested by the Muslim mainstream [the vote in Egypt suggests otherwise -ed.]. But as they are finding out, you don’t need to be popular to seize power in a post-dictatorship Arab world — you just need to be the best organised. The West is so obsessed with government structure that it doesn’t notice when power lies elsewhere, and Islamist death squads are executing barbers and unveiled women in places like Basra. […]
The Foreign Office has been typically slow to recognise the gathering threat, despite repeated warnings. The biggest one of all came a fortnight ago, when the Archbishop of Canterbury opened a gripping debate in the Lords about the widening persecutions, and what the Government ought to do. Lord Patten, the former education secretary, revealed that he spent a year failing to persuade the Foreign Office to help a group of Anglicans in the Anatolian peninsula, who are banned from worshipping in any public place. “‘The answer was no,” he said. ‘They would not approach the Turkish government to ask, ‘Please can you ease up a bit?– But when German Catholics were having trouble in the same place, Angela Merkel’s government intervened immediately, working with the Turks to send a Catholic priest to hold public worship.
So why the British reticence? It might be that the Foreign Office sees this as part of a soppy equalities agenda, unworthy of diplomatic attention. Those who have raised the issue directly with William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, say he is unenthusiastic. When Mr Hague visited Algeria recently, he did not raise its ban on any Christian activity outside state-licensed buildings.
When challenged, ministers deplore persecution in general — but, seemingly, not so much that they”d do something like pick up the phone to Ankara. Yet there is plenty Britain can do. Countries could be denied aid until Christians (or Jews, or Sunnis) are allowed to worship freely. British diplomats could be empowered, even instructed, to advocate freedom of religion. When a peer of the realm alerts the Foreign Office to some persecuted Anglicans, a red alert ought to sound. Mr Hague might even publish an annual audit of religious freedom in various countries, making clear its importance to Britain. It might make its own estimate about the scale of the flood of refugees. […]
Our friends in the Middle East are all waiting to hear from HM Government. Perhaps, in the new year, it might have something to say.