Christians have been persecuted since the very beginnings of the faith and always will be. But paradoxical as it may be, Christianity has also expanded thanks to the testimony of the martyrs. Although they’re not thrown to the lions these days, some are harshly punished for owning a Bible in Saudi Arabia (even executed in North Korea), or crucified by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Their stories deserve to be told.
It’s difficult to estimate how many Christians died in the earlier centuries, but the absolute numbers, are much bigger in our time. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI rightly declared in 2010 that Christians are the most persecuted faith group today, and Pope Francis also mentions that fact frequently.
This is not just a recent phenomenon. In 1860, Muslims attacked Christians in Damascus, killing tens of thousands of civilians, destroying hundreds of Christian villages and churches. The Papal States and Western consulates immediately started urging action to save Christianity in the Levant. Meanwhile, the Western powers (mainly France and Great Britain, but also Russia) intervened and threatened the Ottoman Sultan with sanctions unless he immediately stopped the massacres. Warships bombarded the Eastern Mediterranean and the massacres stopped within a week.
By contrast when twenty-one Coptic Christians were beheaded on the shores of Libya this year, the reaction of the West was shameful, but not surprising. The White House and the Élysée Palace condemned the violence and crimes against innocents. But neither explicitly mentioned that the killers were Islamist extremists and that the victims were simple workers killed just for being Christians. The Islamists themselves issued a video in which they had no problem with identifying their prisoners as Coptic Orthodox.
After the massacre, the Egyptian state (which may be shifting its main alliance from America to Orthodox Russia) declared three days of national mourning and bombarded the positions of the terrorist group in Libya. Egypt’s president promised that a church would be built in memory of the martyrs in the Minya Governorate, the victims’ homeland.
Meanwhile in the West, though 3.5 million people, including fifty heads of state, marched in France in solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo victims, no massive rally was organized over the Libyan martyrs, and very few political or religious leaders even expressed solidarity with persecuted Christians.
The secular, egalitarian West is denying its Christian past and heritage, trying to convince itself that freedom means freedom from Christian elements. Signs of de-Christianization are evident in everyday life, whether it’s banning wearing the cross in public or excluding Christian voices from the public square – in the name of tolerance – or even calling it hate speech to criticize LGBTQ activities and political Islam. This cannot continue unless the West intends to commit suicide.
The period after World War II brought prosperity in Western Europe, which led to the decline of birth rates and a growing need for a cheap workforce. The consequent liberalization of immigration policies and efforts towards the reunification of families produced a sharp rise in the number of Muslim workers in Western Europe – far more than in North America.
Current demographic trends show that Muslims could become a majority of young people within a few decades in many European cities. The identity crisis and secularization going on among people of Christian heritage (mainly Protestant) is making the issue even more difficult and political parties are behaving in ways that they think will maximize the number of Muslim votes.
Oil-rich Arab monarchies are supplying the funds to increase the power of the Muslim lobby in education, and in the domestic and foreign policies of EU member states. Mega-mosques are being built in major European cities, Muslim prayer rooms are allowed in state-owned institutions, and “Islamophobia” is being criminalized, making it more difficult to speak out against the words and actions of radical Muslims.
Meanwhile, the mainly leftist media shows Muslims as victims of wars and colonization, and Christians (especially traditional Christian institutions like the Catholic Church) are portrayed as murderers responsible for the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, violent Christianization of Native Americans, and wars that ravaged Europe for decades.
European Christians are not responding even when truth is on their side. When’s the last time you heard about the multiple historic assaults of Muslims against the West? Current Christian victims are never mentioned as being Christians unless they rebel against authority and hierarchy. With the help of the progressive media, “sexual minorities” monopolize public opinion and draw attention away from attacks on Christians in Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, and elsewhere.
These are just some of the many reasons why second-generation Muslim immigrants are not easily integrated into Western societies and why quite a few are radicalized by extremist Muslim preachers who, unlike Christians, really do preach hate.
Western Europeans and Americans need to talk much more about past victims of non-Christian (Nazi and Communist) dictatorships, to counter the secularist storyline. They should also show more solidarity with Christians currently oppressed (Asia Bibi, Meriam Ibrahim, etc.), while the Christian media must keep constantly in focus the many people around the globe facing daily difficulties or even death if they want to remain Christian or convert.
Today’s West, post-Christian as it may hope to be, cannot be truly said to protect human rights until it assures the right of people to live their faith freely. Those of us living in Europe are failing at this task, and we also see American states like Indiana that are unable to defend the Christian right of conscience. It’s a strange time when repression and discrimination in Saudi Arabia do not matter, but Indiana’s potential oppression of gays did.
The Old and New Worlds must wake up because Islamists can repeat beheadings in Libya in the streets of London and Paris, or even in North America. Who then will be left to stand in solidarity with the persecuted Christians of the West?