Blog Action Day 2013 - “Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?” #BAD2013


“Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?”

The above quote is from a book extract published in the Catholic Herald (UK) just over 10 days ago. The book in question is “The Global War on Christians” by John L Allen Jr. (Image/Random House LLC). Click here for the full extract.

The extract paints a very worrying picture of religious persecution of Christians in the modern world, especially in non-Western nations, that the author calls “the world’s best kept secret”. As he says himself, if you mention such persecution in public you will often be met with responses referring back to Christian-led atrocities of the past:

‘There’s also a reflexive hostility to institutional religion, especially Christianity, in some sectors of secular opinion. People conditioned by such views are inclined to see Christianity as the agent of repression, not its victim. Say “religious persecution,” and the images that come to mind are the Crusades, the Inquisition, the wars of religion, Bruno and Savonarola, the Salem witch trials – all chapters of history in which Christianity is cast as the villain. For many such folks today, “Christianity” means an all-male gerontocracy in Rome cracking down on progressive American nuns, or intemperate Evangelicals seeking to restrict a woman’s “right to choose” or a gay’s right to marry.’

The victims of such persecution are ‘“too Christian” to excite the Left, “too foreign” to interest the Right.’ And as such fall into the “political blind spot of the West”.

I decided to see what Amnesty International has had to say on the issue. Their annual report 2012 which charts cases of injustice in dozens of countries throughout the world makes particular reference to the persecution of Christians in the following countries, in some cases together with the persecution of other religious minorities:

Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Laos and Pakistan.

They have also reported on such cases as that of an Iranian Christian pastor, Farshid Fathi , imprisoned in 2010  for “apostacy” and refusing to renounce his religion. He was initially under threat of execution, but is now serving a 6 year jail term. Their article reported that 

‘Christians have faced increased persecution in Iran since the disputed presidential election of 2009. Senior officials – including the Supreme Leader - have repeatedly made statements about the need to combat “false beliefs”, believed to refer to evangelical Christianity, Baha’ism and Sufism.‘

It was also good to see this article about anti-Christian sectarianism in Egypt on their website, though there currently seems to be no sense of an organised campaign led by Amnesty in response to this issue.

Another website, christiantoday.com, has said of Fathi’s imprisonment that "in order to put him under mental pressure, his interrogators and prison guards lied to him in saying that they had arrested his wife and that his father had a heart attack"… Fathi, a Christian Theology graduate, had been arrested on December 26, 2010 and transferred to the notorious ward 209 of Evin Prison. He spent a full year in uncertainty there and then five more months in solitary confinement.”

As was reported by USA Today back in April of this year, in 2011 Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy proved themselves to be exceptions in terms of how Western leaders respond to this situation. Merkel said that "Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world," coming in for much criticism in some quarters. Sarkozy said in a speech that Christians face a "particularly wicked program of cleansing in the Middle East, religious cleansing."

Here is a large extract from the USA Today article:

‘… A 2011 Pew Forum study found that Christians are harassed in 130 countries, more than any of the world's other religions.The just-released book Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians provides the gory details behind these statistics. Persecuted is a collaboration of the Hudson Institute's Nina Shea, Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert to catalog the human rights abuses visited upon Christian believers from North Korea to Mali. They define this persecution as Christians "who are tortured, raped, imprisoned, or killed for their faith." It's a worldwide phenomenon, but Shea points out a troubling acceleration in the cradle of Christianity's birth: the Middle East and North Africa. As London Guardian columnist Rupert Shortt wrote in January, "The religious ecology of the Middle East looks more fragile than ever, as the Arab Spring gives way to Christian Winter."
Tragically, Christians have been forced to abandon homelands they have occupied for thousands of years. Up to two-thirds of Christians have fled Iraq in the past ten years to escape massacres, church burnings and constant death threats. Many Christians fled to Syria, where they are experiencing persecution anew. In Iran, U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini has been sentenced to eight years in prison for preaching Christianity.
Violence in Egypt
Last week, Amnesty International blasted Egypt's government, a major recipient of U.S. aid, for its continued failure to protect Coptic Christians from discrimination and violence. Amnesty's report comes on the heels of a fresh wave of attacks just before Easter in the town of Wasta, south of Cairo.
Lebanon was once a majority Christian country but no longer, as Christians flee the hostility. CBS News reported in 2011 that the former president of Lebanon, Amin Gemayel complained of a "genocide" against Christians in the Middle East. "Massacres are taking place for no reason and without any justification against Christians. It is only because they are Christians."
"The future of Christians in the Middle East is very bleak," Neil Hicks of Human Rights First told me. "What has happened in Iraq and Syria is de facto ethnic cleansing of Christians." In other words: Christians can leave or be killed.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, an expert on the region, told me he is shocked that American Christians aren't regularly protesting outside of embassies drawing attention to this issue. Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is, he says, "one of the most undercovered stories in international news." Perhaps it's time for that to change.
Kirsten Powers is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, a Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Daily Beast.
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.
It certainly does seem that there is a growing body of evidence to back up the statements of Merkel and Sarkozy. The above article mentions persecution or harassment of Christians in 130 countries, rather more than those listed by Amnesty International. 

The article also mentions the organisation “Human Rights First”. I decided to look them up as well as any other organisations currently seeking to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians to see how we might ourselves best respond to this growing threat. Like Amnesty, Human Rights First seems to have no active campaigns running at present in this area of persecution. It seems to be left to Christian organisations such as “Persecution: International Christian Concern” and “Open Doors”. The latter in particular is organising action in the form of global petitions, etc… in response to situations such as the attacks on Christians in Syria who are being forced to flee their homeland. Click HERE to sign their global petition which currently has over 181,000 signatures.

Christians and non-Christians should unite to speak out against all forms of persecution, but it does seem that at present it is predominantly down to Christians themselves to speak out on behalf of their fellow Christians.

LET US DO SO, LOUD AND CLEAR!!
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