The Guardian – Editorial
That the message of peace and goodwill is not a political reality for a significant minority of the world’s Christians should concern religious and non-religious alike
Last week, the Prince of Wales was joined by Prince Ghazi of Jordan ona visit to the Egyptian Coptic church in Stevenage and the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in west London, where he heard from a number of Christian families who have had first-hand experience of the rising tide of persecution. “We cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately attacked by fundamentalist Islamist militants,” he said. “The Arab spring [is] rapidly turning into a Christian winter” was how the author William Dalrymple put it on the BBC last week.
Clearly, this is a sensitive subject. The perceived support that Christians have allegedly given to President Assad in Syria and to the Egyptian army in deposing President Morsi in Egypt has made them increasingly the target of violence, with churches assaulted, priests abducted, individuals targeted and homes looted. In Egypt alone, Amnesty International has reported that during this past year 207 churches have been attacked and 43 Orthodox churches totally destroyed. And the situation of Christians in Syria is deteriorating rapidly as the Free Syrian Army has become increasingly influenced by foreign jihadist militants. Many thousands of Syrian Christians are now fleeing over the border to Turkey. One man who made the journey from Syria claimed: “Where we live, 10 churches have been burned down. They started to threaten Christians in the town we live. When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave.”
All this is a part of a wider picture in which Christians are being increasingly forced out of the biblical homelands. Indeed, across a vast swath of the world between Morocco and Pakistan, the persecution of Christians continues to gather pace, frequently with barely a eyebrow raised in the secular west. Perhaps this is beginning to change. Last month Baroness Warsi warned that “A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale. In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct.” And on Saturday, the shadow foreign secretary,Douglas Alexander, spoke up against the “political correctness, or some sense of embarrassment at ‘doing God'” that makes this a taboo subject.
This reluctance to speak out is partly generated by a peculiar sense that there is some hierarchy of victimhood, with Christians less deserving of concern. And, no doubt, the historical association of Christianity with persecution of other beliefs – the crusades, the inquisition and so on – is also working away somewhere in the background, as is the idea that Christianity is essentially a western faith. This links to the worry that supporting persecuted Christians is somehow taking sides in a clash of civilisations. This thought looks especially foolish when written down; which is precisely why it is worth stating so baldly.
Support Syrian Christians
Follow us on Twitter: @syriaschristian
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/supportsyrianchristians