The global persecution of Christians is the unreported catastrophe of our time

The War on Christians

Written by John L. Allen Jr. | Saturday, October 5, 2013

To put flesh and blood on those statistics, all one has to do is look around. In Baghdad, Islamic militants stormed the Syriac Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation on 31 October 2010, killing the two priests celebrating Mass and leaving a total of 58 people dead. Though shocking, the assault was far from unprecedented; of the 65 Christian churches in Baghdad, 40 have been bombed at least once since the beginning of the 2003 US-led invasion.

Imagine if correspondents in late 1944 had reported the Battle of the Bulge, but without explaining that it was a turning point in the second world war. Or what if finance reporters had told the story of the AIG meltdown in 2008 without adding that it raised questions about derivatives and sub-prime mortgages that could augur a vast financial implosion?

Most people would say that journalists had failed to provide the proper context to understand the news. Yet that’s routinely what media outlets do when it comes to outbreaks of anti-Christian persecution around the world, which is why the global war on Christians remains the greatest story never told of the early 21st century.

In recent days, people around the world have been appalled by images of attacks on churches in Pakistan, where 85 people died when two suicide bombers rushed the Anglican All Saints Church in Peshawar, and in Kenya, where an assault on a Catholic church in Wajir left one dead and two injured.

Those atrocities are indeed appalling, but they cannot truly be understood without being seen as small pieces of a much larger narrative. Consider three points about the landscape of anti-Christian persecution today, as shocking as they are generally unknown. According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular observatory based in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. Statistically speaking, that makes Christians by far the most persecuted religious body on the planet.

According to the Pew Forum, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the centre calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.

In effect, the world is witnessing the rise of an entire new generation of Christian martyrs. The carnage is occurring on such a vast scale that it represents not only the most dramatic Christian story of our time, but arguably the premier human rights challenge of this era as well.

To put flesh and blood on those statistics, all one has to do is look around. In Baghdad, Islamic militants stormed the Syriac Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation on 31 October 2010, killing the two priests celebrating Mass and leaving a total of 58 people dead. Though shocking, the assault was far from unprecedented; of the 65 Christian churches in Baghdad, 40 have been bombed at least once since the beginning of the 2003 US-led invasion.

The effect of this campaign of violence and intimidation has been devastating for Christianity in the country. At the time of the first Gulf War in 1991, Iraq boasted a flourishing Christian population of at least 1.5 million. Today the high-end estimate for the number of Christians left is around 500,000, and realistically many believe it could be as low as 150,000. Most of these Iraqi Christians have gone into exile, but a staggering number have been killed.

India’s northeastern state of Orissa was the scene of the most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century. In 2008, a series of riots ended with as many as 500 Christians killed, many hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals; thousands more were injured and at least 50,000 left homeless. Many Christians fled to hastily prepared displacement camps, where some languished for two years or more.

Please, read the entire article (I’d say it’s worth subscribing to the Spectator for a week to read it), pray for the persecuted, and help to spread the news.

The article is written in connection to the publication of Allen’s latest book, The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, which I hope to be able to read soon.

4 comments on “The global persecution of Christians is the unreported catastrophe of our time

  1. Hi Tom,

    Practically every day, when I read Morning Prayer in the Magnificat, I encounter stories of martyrs, people who died for their faith, often in horrifically brutal ways. Just today, I read of Blessed Joachim Ogawa, who along with 51 others, was bound to a cross and burned to death. When I read of these, and their modern counterparts, I am reminded of St. Paul’s (quoted) words in Romans, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” While I pray for mercy, I am deeply aware that these atrocities are part of the path of suffering that we walk, just as Jesus did, and part of bearing our crosses with Him.

    With love,
    Tara

    • Tara, Beautifully balanced. We work and labor for justice and human rights and religious liberty and, as you say, mercy, but we also know that in this world the Christian witness to Jesus in all these values is not always, or even often, going to be welcomed. In that case, we stand strong with our brothers and sisters in faith in prayer for them *and* in our own witness to these same costly truths. Thanks for writing!
      Many blessings,
      Tom

  2. WoopieCushion says:

    Lord have mercy

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