THE WAR ON CHRISTIANS
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). These words of Jesus came to me as I read the February 13, 2012 Newsweek cover story titled, “The War on Christians” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The by-line of the Newsweek article said, “From one end of the Muslim world to the other, Christians are being murdered for their faith.” But the war on Christians is not confined to the Muslim world. President Obama recently mandated that all Christian hospitals give out free birth control, whether they believe in it or not. Southern Baptist leader Richard Land correctly said that this violates freedom of religion, not only in Catholic hospitals and charities, but also in Baptist institutions and others. The federal government mandating such things violates our Constitutional freedom of religion, and is part of the world-wide war on Christians. Mayor Bloomberg of New York has banned Christian churches from paying to meet in public schools, driving dozens of churches out on February 12, including the famous “Manhattan Bible Church.” Mayor Bloomberg's action against these churches is another example of hatred and bias toward Christians in these evil days. While Bloomberg attacks the Christians, he tries to please the Muslims. It should be remembered that he was in favor of them building a mosque near the 9/11 memorial! In Los Angeles the streets are often closed down without warning on Sundays for secular events, preventing Christians in the inner city from attending church services. Mayor Villaraigosa does nothing to help people get to church. This too is part of the world-wide war against Christians. If secularists have their way this is only the beginning of persecution against Christians in America and the West.
How should true Christians respond to this persecution? Impossible though it may seem, Jesus told us to bless those that curse us, and to pray for those who persecute us. Can we do that? Many Christians in Muslim lands are doing that! May God bless them, in ways we in the West can hardly imagine, as they suffer martyrdom for Christ. May each of us follow their example of tolerance and love!
We are giving several excerpts from the Newsweek article – not to provoke hatred – but to promote love and prayer for our enemies, and prayer support for those whom they persecute. In that spirit we are now giving several quotations from the Newsweek article.
We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway – an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.
The portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries...
...a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia [fear of Islam] pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia [fear of Christ] currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity – and ultimately of all religious minorities – in the Islamic world is at stake.
From blasphemy laws to brutal murders to bombings to mutilations and the burning of holy sites, Christians in so many nations live in fear. In Nigeria many have suffered all of these forms of persecution. The nation [Nigeria] has the largest Christian minority (40 percent) in proportion to its population (160 million) of any majority-Muslim country. For years, Muslims and Christians in Nigeria have lived on the edge of civil war. Islamist radicals provoke much if not most of the tension. The newest such organization is an outfit that calls itself Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege.” Its aim is to establish Sharia [Muslim law] in Nigeria. To this end it has stated that it will kill all Christians in the country...In 2011 its members killed at least 510 people and burned down or destroyed more than 350 churches in 10 northern states. They use guns, gasoline bombs, and even machetes, shouting “Allahu akbar” [“Allah is great”] while launching attacks on unsuspecting citizens. They have attacked churches, a Christmas Day gathering...a town hall, beauty salons, and banks...the latest AP reports indicate that the group’s recent attacks show a new level of potency and sophistication.
The Christophobia that has plagued Sudan for years... has not ended. In South Kordofan, Christians are still subjected to aerial bombardment, targeted killings, the kidnapping of children, and other atrocities. Reports from the United Nations indicate that between 53,000 and 75,000 innocent civilians have been displaced from their residences and that houses and buildings have been looted and destroyed.
[When the minority Christian population of Egypt marched in protest, for being persecuted, on October 9 last year] Egyptian security forces drove their trucks into the crowd and fired on protesters, crushing and killing at least 24 and wounding more than 300 people. By the end of the year more than 200,000 [Christians] had fled their homes in anticipation of more attacks...
...Since 2003 more than 900 Iraqi Christians (most of them Assyrians) have been killed by terrorist violence in Baghdad alone, and 70 churches have been burned, according to the Assyrian International News Agency. Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled as a result of violence directed specifically at them, reducing the number of Christians in the country to fewer than half a million from just over a million before 2003...
The 2.8 million Christians who live in Pakistan make up only about 1.6 percent of the population of more than 170 million. As members of such a tiny minority, they live in perpetual fear not only of Islamist terrorists but also of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. There is, for example, the notorious case of a Christian woman who was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. When international pressure persuaded Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer to explore ways of freeing her, he was killed by his bodyguard. The bodyguard was then celebrated by prominent Muslim clerics as a hero – and though he was sentenced to death late last year, the judge who imposed the sentence now lives in hiding, fearing for his life...Simply to declare belief in the Christian Trinity is considered blasphemous, since it contradicts mainstream Muslim theological doctrines. When a Christian group is suspected of transgressing the blasphemy laws, the consequences can be brutal. Just ask the members of the Christian aid group World Vision. Its offices were attacked in the spring of 2010 by 10 gunmen armed with grenades, leaving six people dead and four wounded. A militant Muslim group claimed responsibility for the attack on the grounds that World Vision was working to subvert Islam. (In fact, it was helping the survivors of a major earthquake.) Not even Indonesia – often touted as the world’s most tolerant, democratic, and modern majority-Muslim nation – has been immune to the fevers of Christophobia. According to data compiled by the Christian Post, the number of violent incidents committed against religious minorities (and at 7 percent of the population, Christians are the country’s largest minority) increased by nearly 40 percent, from 198 to 276, between 2010 and 2011.
...Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, deserves to be placed in a category of its own. Despite the fact that more than a million Christians live in the country as foreign workers, churches and even private acts of Christian prayer are banned; to enforce these totalitarian restrictions, the religious police regularly raid the homes of Christians and bring them up on charges of blasphemy in courts where their testimony carries less legal weight than a Muslim’s. Even in Ethiopia, where Christians make up a majority of the population, church burnings by members of the Muslim minority have become a problem...
So let us please get our priorities straight. Yes, Western governments should protect Muslim minorities from intolerance. And of course we should ensure that they can worship, live, and work freely and without fear. It is the protection of the freedom of conscience and speech that distinguishes free societies from unfree ones...
As for what the West can do to help religious minorities in Muslim-majority societies, my answer is that it needs to begin using the billions of dollars in aid it gives to the offending countries as leverage. Then there is trade and investment. Besides diplomatic pressure, these aid and trade relationships can and should be made conditional on the protection of the freedom of conscience and worship for all citizens.
Instead of falling for overblown tales of Western Islamophobia, let’s take a real stand against the Christophobia infecting the Muslim world. Tolerance is for everyone – except the intolerant.
– Ayaan Hirsi Ali, founder of the AHA Foundation, which works to protect the rights of women in Muslim communities; Newsweek magazine, February 13, 2012, pp. 28-35.
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