Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why Do Christians Remain Silent About the Persecution of Christians in Muslim-Majority Societies?

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By Barry Rubin

Christians in Iraq have been, and not for the first time, deliberately targeted in a major terrorist attack. Indeed, from Indonesia to Pakistan to Iraq, from the Gaza Strip to Egypt to Sudan to Nigeria, Christians are being assaulted, intimidated, and murdered by militant Muslims.

Yet virtually never do Christians in any of these countries—perhaps with some occasional exceptions in India--attack Muslims. In the West, there have been no armed terrorist attacks on Muslims or the deliberate killing of Muslims. There does not exist a single group advocating such behavior.

Have you seen any of this in the Western mass media? Have any Christian church groups—some of which find ample time to criticize Israel—even mentioned this systematic assault? Indeed, on the rare occasions that the emigration of Christians is mentioned, somehow it is blamed on Israel, as one American network news show did recently.

I’m not writing this to complain about double standards, since one takes this problem for granted, but out of sheer puzzlement. Presumably, much of the Western media and intelligentsia—along with a lot of the church leadership, assumes that it is impossible for a non-Western, “non-white” group to ever be prejudiced. There is also a belief that if one dares report the news about pogroms carried about by Muslims against Christians it will trigger pogroms by Christians against Muslims.

Well, the Presbyterian Church (USA) did issue a statement condemning the attack on the Baghdad church, but omitted mention of who the perpetrators were. Asked privately why it was done this way, a high-ranking church official responded: "Our focus is to encourage the government to be more diligent about protecting religious minorities in Iraq." In other words, they hope that never criticizing or pointing to the roots of the problem will chide the regime into doing something. It won't.

The Catholic Church is quiet because it fears that complaints will increase persecution. Indeed, at a recent high-level Synod for the Middle East, leading Catholic clerics from the region blasted Israel and talked about how wonderfully Christians are treated in Muslim-majority countries. Iraq was singled out as a country where there were no problems in Muslim-Christian relations. Apparently, though, appeasement isn't working.

A leading U.S. cardinal, head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops no less, sort of suggests the violence is the fault of the United States, or at least that's how the liberal National Catholic Reporter spins it:

After welcoming the U.S. withdrawal, he continues, "The U.S. government--having invaded Iraq and later withdrawn all combat troops--`has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves.'" It isn't clear, however, what the United States can do about such things since Iraq is a sovereign country and the cardinal has just praised the fact that U.S. troops will supposedly no longer be engaged in combat.

Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan--the church attacked was a Syrian Catholic one--took a tougher line, urging the Iraqi government to protect churches and adding:

"Christians are slaughtered in Iraq, in their homes and churches, and the so-called 'free' world is watching in complete indifference, interested only in responding in a way that is politically correct and economically opportune, but in reality is hypocritical." But he did not explain precisely what this meant, perhaps because he is now living in Syria.

Regarding the Baghdad attack, the al-Qaida terrorists said that all Iraqi Christians would be “exterminated” if two “Muslim women” in Egypt were not freed. Apparently, these were two young women, both married to Coptic Christian priests, unlikely candidates for conversion to Islam. They were in fact kidnapped and forcibly "converted" to Islam and then either escaped or rescued by their own families.

Thus, aggression against Christians is turned into a rationale to persecute Christians, a pattern we have often seen used elsewhere by Islamists. Yet many of the attacks in these countries are not carried out by revolutionary Islamist groups but simply by regular people, sometimes in large groups.

Here’s a very partial chronology of such attacks and for the situation in Egypt go here.

According to the Iraqi terrorists’ statement, the church was a, “Dirty place of the infidel that Iraqi Christians have long used as a base to fight Islam.” Increasingly, Islamists are making it clear that any presence of Christians in Muslim-majority countries is unacceptable, just as the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East is unacceptable.

I just cannot understand how this factor and these attacks so often go unnoticed, and certainly unprotested. Isn't it time for Christians to try to help their persecuted brethren before they are wiped out--or at least forced to flee--altogether?

PS: I'm tempted to write an article entitled, "Why Do Feminists Remain Silent About the Persecution of Women in Muslim-Majority Societies." But Phyllis Chesler has already covered that subject extensively.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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