It’s time to acknowledge the war on Christianity

Why do Westerners behave oddly when it’s Christians being murdered abroad? Photo: Fairfax Media

 

We live in an age of martyrs. Also, an age of wilful ignorance. When Christians are killed for being Christians, politicians overlook it and public interest fades.

Those few of us in the West who still go to church don’t realise how lucky we are. Others are dying for the right to do that.

On Palm Sunday two bombings in Egyptian churches killed at least 44 people. The targets were Coptic Christians.

In one case, the bomb was situated at the front of the church, tearing through pews and bodies.

A witness told the Telegraph: “I kept looking at the human remains but I didn’t recognise who was who because their faces were so damaged.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility. I take comfort from the faith that whatever misery they have caused their victims, the bombers will endure a thousand times worse in Hell.

I am angry. Angry that someone could do this but angry, too, that it’s become so common.

According to Open Doors, a charity working with oppressed Christians, each month 322 Christians are persecuted for their faith, 214 churches and religious properties are destroyed, and there are 772 acts of violence.

The horror is not limited, as the far-right would have you think, to Muslim countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Catholics are fleeing into the forests to escape militias targeting church workers and property.

But “Islamic extremism” is the dominant force behind the oppression of Christians in nine out of 10 of the worst countries surveyed by Open Doors. In Nigeria, the murder of Christians by Boko Haram jumped 62 per cent in one year.

Some calculate that between half and two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians have died or fled. Up to one million Christian Syrians are now refugees. Those that stay behind in the Middle East face religious taxes, torture, destruction of their temples and rape. There are eyewitness accounts of crucifixions.

We ought to be outraged. Instead the strangely academic tone of Western reaction was captured in an online BBC report about the Egyptian bombings. It read: “The early Church suffered persecution under the Roman empire, and there were intermittent persecutions after Egypt became a Muslim country. Many believe that continues to this day.” Many believe?

What an odd choice of words. I wonder how many Copts have to die before this torment is upgraded from a belief to a self-evident fact.

Why do Westerners behave oddly when it’s Christians being murdered abroad? Political correctness is partly to blame – that secular form of Christian guilt about things we’ve done, failed to do, and did a long time ago to foreign people (which means, we seem to assume, that they can do no wrong today).

There is one other reason why we’re so nervous about engaging with this fight: the West is reluctant to identify itself as Christian. Our spirit has become so weak, our culture so vapid, that we struggle to see that the rights, the democracy, the religious pluralism that we all enjoy in our part of the world were not invented yesterday but are part of a historic, global story of Christian social progress.

We’ve forgotten who we are. No wonder that when we see members of our religious family suffer, we don’t realise the responsibility that we have for them.

We need more religion in our policy. More religion in arts and education so that we can all understand each other better. More willingness to encourage the moderate – and authentic – voices within Islam; more willingness to condemn those financing extremism.

Donald Trump has said he wants to prioritise Christian refugees. The Prime Minister told a gathering at the start of Lent that she wants to do more to help Christians persecuted abroad. As Easter approaches, both can show the Copts that we in the West are their friends. No, not just friends – that we are their brothers and sisters.

Full article: It’s time to acknowledge the war on Christianity (The Age)

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