It's hard to miss the news today: In Pakistan earlier this month, more than 80 people died in a bomb attack on a Protestant church; last weekend, assailants killed three members of a Christian wedding party in Egypt; in Syria, Jihadists are ever more brazen in their determination to target Christians. But, still, President Obama and other leaders in the West -- though remembering the victims and acknowledging the evil in passing -- are not making any concerted effort to make this particular slaughter of innocents a foreign policy priority.
However, at least here in the U.S., a new book may help tilt matters in the right direction. The National Catholic Reporter's well-known reporter John Allen just published The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution. Aid to the Church in Need is grateful to John for his generous acknowledgement of our organization as a key player when it comes to supporting the suffering and persecuted Church, and as an important resource for his exhaustive research and reporting.
The book -- which could serve as a policy primer for both Western politicians and religious leaders, even as it educates the lay audience as well -- sets out to give the lie to a number of what the author labels as pernicious myths: "the myth that Christians are at risk only where they're a minority"; "the myth that no one saw it coming"; "the myth that it's all about Islam"; "the myth that it is only persecution if the motives are religious"; and "the myth that anti-Christian persecution is a political issue."
Significantly, John opens the book with a reflection on why, indeed, governments and even Western religious institutions have been so silent in the face of the global persecution of Christians. "On the whole," he writes, "the war on Christians remains the world's best-kept secret." He cites the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, who reflects on the ever worsening plight of Arab Christians in the Middle East: "Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?"
John cites a number of reasons for the silence on the part of the secular world: there is an overall ignorance of religious issues, as well as a "reflexive hostility to institutional religion ... [and people] conditioned by such views are inclined to see Christianity as the agent of repression, not its victim." Then there is the fact that "the war on Christians is also simply too far away." Moreover, the author writes, persecuted Christians fall through the cracks of the left-right divide -- they are too Christian for liberals and too foreign for conservatives.
In the end, secular inaction might be expected, John suggests, but what about the relative silence of mainstream Western Christianity? One key reason, he writes, is that Christians in the U.S. and Western Europe have no personal experience of persecution, plus there is the "broad tendency" in the West to "see the primary function as promoting inner peace and tranquility." Dwelling on the often incredibly cruel treatment of Christians abroad is simply not very pleasant and hence easily avoided.
Then there is the heavy investment in interfaith initiatives on the part of mainstream Christianity in the West, which has produced what John calls "the risk of 'interfaith correctness'" that basically avoids confrontation with the world of Islam or Hinduism. Finally, the author points the finger at "a distressing share of Christian time and treasure today [being] eaten up by internal battles, making it difficult to galvanize a unified response on anything."
We heartily salute John upon the publication of this powerful and important book. We join him in calling on all Christians and people of good will to "wake up" -- as the back of the book jacket urges -- to the plight of the suffering and persecuted Church. On countless occasions, our founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, insisted upon a truth that John here gives a dynamic, contemporary spin: Christians in the West are called to come to the aid of persecuted and suffering brothers and sisters, with whom they form one body in Christ -- the gift of faith comes with a huge responsibility.
Please click here for information and a sample chapter from The Global War on Christians--Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution.