The Church Persecuted – 2011 Print
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 25 January 2012

As Chairman of Aid to the Church in Need U.S.A., a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, a lot of data lands on my desk about violence against Catholics throughout the world. Since the mainline media doesn’t give them much coverage, here’s a quick review of anti-Christian events readers may have missed in 2011:
 

Egypt

During the “Arab spring,” Egyptian Catholic Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza condemned security forces for inaction when two of his churches were attacked by an extremist Muslim group. Twelve people were murdered and over 200 injured. The outraged bishop said, “The army will not stand up against the people who do this sort of thing. They want to stay neutral. The police appear but very slowly. They are frightened.”

In October, the Catholic Church in Egypt implicated the regime in the deaths of twenty-five Copts. The government encouraged a mob to attack Christians who marched on the state-controlled television headquarters seeking greater protection. Father Rafic Grieche explained: “We are accusing the army and the police, who used vagabonds, a rabble force of street fighters, to attack the demonstrators.” Under Mubarak, it was easier to demonstrate but “the new regime under Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was opposed to such forms of freedom of speech.”

Christian businessmen have also been victimized. Egyptians have been encouraged to boycott their shops and Christians have been denied employment. Ads for jobs, for example, exclude Christian women by specifying “a female employee with headscarf.” In December alone, thirty shops owned by Christians in one province were burned to the ground.

Catholic and Orthodox bishops have complained that Egypt’s 13 million Christians “are currently experiencing their worst time in centuries.”

 
Iraq

In January 2011 the coordinator for humanitarian aid to Christian families in Iraq called on the government “to tell the truth, namely that Christians are being systematically attacked with the intention of driving them out of Iraq.” Seventy percent of the nation’s Christians have fled, leaving only about 300,000.

The Iraqi constitution discriminates against Christians; sermons of hate against Christians are preached in mosques. Christian women, fearing attacks on the streets, wear veils in public. The mayor of a predominantly Christian village told ACN, “We have reasons to believe that there are politicians who pay criminals to target Christians and kill them or chase them away.”

After a series of car bombings outside churches in the summer and fall that killed and injured scores of Christians, Syrian-Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche called for Iraqi political and religious leaders to take a firm stand against the violence: “They need to strongly denounce this repulsive crime, which will badly damage the reputation of Islam and the dignity of Iraq.”


               A blood-stained painting of Jesus – Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt (1/1/11)    

 
Democratic Republic of Congo

The prioress of the Daughters of the Resurrection described the situation in East Congo in 2011: “The war continues and the rebels are still threatening us.” Rebels have been constantly harassing the nuns, destroying their houses, and forcing them to flee. “Catholics,” she told ACN, “in Ciherano are no longer welcome.”

In northwestern Congo, Bishop Julien Andavo Mbia warned: “The Lord’s Resistance Army continues to terrorize the population. People are afraid.” That terrorist organization, which was driven out of Uganda in the 1980s, settled in Congo and regularly attacks Christian villages. Government leaders do little about it.

 
Nigeria

In 2011, five Nigerian Catholic churches were destroyed and hundreds of faithful killed and injured. Bishops complain that renegade politicians, who have whipped up religious hatred, are to blame for the bloodshed and that police have failed to protect the people. Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja condemned terrorists intent on splitting the nation into Islamic North and Christian South: “One cannot suddenly resettle all Muslims in the north and all the Christians in the south and divide up the country.” He denounced “terrorists who cause problems for anyone in Nigeria who stands in their way. . . .They claim to act in the name of Islam, but the killing of innocents is contradictory to Islam.”

 
India

Political extremists continue to target Catholics in India’s state of Orissa. Since 2008, over 170 churches have been sacked, 4,000 homes burned, with over 18,000 injured, 500 killed, and 40,000 driven from their homes. Local police have been accused of backing the radical Hindutva political party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which seeks to eliminate Christian leaders. Archbishop John Barwa has stood up to the local government and has demanded investigations and reconstruction of Catholic communities: “My message is clear: we need peace and tranquility – no more violence, no killing.”

 
Indonesia

This nation’s leading Catholic peace activist, Theophilus Bela, has accused the Indonesian president and his government for failing “to tackle Islamist anti-Christian violence.” Indonesia’s 28.5 million Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the country. Bishop Hubertus Leteng of Ruteng has reported radical Islamization is being driven largely by militants from the Middle East.

 
Pakistan

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, President of Pakistan’s Bishops Conference, announced in 2011 that the outlook for Christians in his country is “bleak.” The 1.2 million Catholics are treated as second-class citizens: “We cannot speak out. We feel oppressed, repressed, and depressed.” Dozens of Catholic schools have been destroyed. Attacks are directed primarily against Catholic girls seeking an education. Christians are treated as if they are not Pakistanis and have trouble finding employment. Extremists have called for the passage of a law that would ban the Bible. A formal petition has been presented to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to declare certain Biblical passages as blasphemous.

Not a pretty picture. And we could add China, Vietnam, Cuba, and many more countries to this brief review. That’s why Pope Benedict, in his annual address to diplomats on January 9, emphasized the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. The world is not paying much attention, and Christians in free countries need to start making some noise and demanding that their own political leaders don’t let murderous anti-Christian extremists have their way.

 
George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen. His newest book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.



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