Monday, July 13, 2009

Why the Silence on Islamist--and Sometimes Muslim-Majority Regimes--Persecution of Christians?

On July 12, seven churches were bombed in Baghdad with 14 people being killed, many of them while attending religious services.

Christians in Muslim-majority areas are constantly being targeted by radical Islamists, especially in the Gaza Strip (where they've largely been driven out altogether), Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria. There is also tremendous pressure against the Christians (Copts) of Egypt. Hundreds of specific incidents of murder, kidnapping, expulsion, threats, and the destruction of churches have been documented.

In other places--notably Syria and the Palestinian Authority's territories, and of course in Israel--Christians are protected and able to practice their religion freely. In other countries, like Saudi Arabia, the practice of Christianity by foreign workers is tightly restricted.

It is a mystery to me why Western Christian churches and organizations have been so indifferent to the persecution and murder of their co-religionists. This story is rarely covered in the mainstream media. There are no protests and little aid being rendered to imperiled Christian communities.

Indeed, when it is mentioned--as in the recent special issue of National Geographic magazine--the only country blamed is Israel. Yet my direct contacts with West Bank Palestinian Christians leaves no doubt that the cause of emigration is Hamas and such elements, either through threats or fear that Islamists will come to power in future.

Since Muslim-majority states or areas are the only places in the world today where Christians face real persecution, the silence on this issue is both inexplicable and despicable.

And for some specific examples....

Persecution by Elwood McQuaid

For all of the talk in the highest echelons of American politics and religion about conciliation between Islam and Christians, nothing is changing for beleaguered believers in Jesus in countries where the heat of persecution is being turned up. This may be true in part because there are no discernable expressions of outrage against the atrocities.

In July, Compass Direct News reported the beheading in February of two boys in Somalia because their Christian father refused to divulge information about a church leader whom militant Islamists were seeking. The man’s wife said Muslims entered their home the next day while she was fixing lunch and abducted the family’s three sons, 11-year-old Abdi; 12-year-old Hussein; and Abdulahi, 7. Their mother, Arbow, lamented, “I watched my three boys dragged away helplessly as my youngest boy was crying. I knew they were going to be slaughtered. Just after some few minutes I heard a wailing cry from Abdulahi running towards the house.” She fainted from shock.

After burying the boys, the family sought refuge in a Kenyan refugee camp where they were last reported to be living in the open without shoes, a mattress, or shelter.

Also in July, Compass Direct reported that more than 500 Muslims in Lahore, Pakistan, went on the rampage against Christians after a Christian field worker on a tractor asked a Muslim to let him pass. Outraged at the lower-class Christian field worker’s request, 15 to 20 Muslims attacked the 37-year-old farmer and his family with hatchets.

Compass Direct reported that leaders of radical Islamists then met at the local mosque and decided to charge the Christians with blaspheming Islam. They conspired with a Muslim cleric to “teach Christians an exemplary lesson,” and the cleric used a mosque loudspeaker to incite 500 to 800 Muslim men to attack Christians.

The mob tore through the village, destroying electric meters, breaking down gates, wrecking and plundering homes, and in some cases beating Christian women. They also set vehicles and homes ablaze.

Later, reported Compass Direct, “several young Muslims gathered and began chanting slogans calling for expulsion of Christians, saying, ‘We will not let them live here.’ By 2:30 p.m., the area mosque was announcing that no shop should provide anything to Christians and that they should totally ostracize them.”

Christians and Muslims have lived together peaceably in the area for more than a century. “There has never been any such incident before,” said one Christian.

Some Muslims condemned the violence, and a Muslim leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party of Provincial Assembly told Compass the culprits must be brought to justice.

How long it will take to repair the damage and restore confidence that Christians can live in Lahore, Pakistan, in peace is anybody’s guess. But this incident emphasizes the growing problems facing Christians living in areas where radical Islamists feel empowered to attack followers of Jesus.

And with the world and virtually the entire Christian church ignoring their plight, these believers must feel a creeping sense of isolation as they fear future outbreaks.

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