It’s worth recapping on Tom Kelly’s column from the Irish News on Monday, asking if anyone cares about the fate of Christians and other religious minorities in the middle east…
…for all our pretence to be a Christian country (not that our Christian practices always gives witness to that profession) we seem uninterested in the desperate plight of fellow Christians across the world. Western Christians like to huff and puff about their rights being under pressure from increased secularism but the truth is that no Christian in any European country is actually persecuted for their religious beliefs. And its time that faith based organisations fought the arguments based on the same type of respect and equality for others who disagree with them that they seek for themselves.
Across many parts of the world the story could not be more different. The great golden period of Islam when Islamic societies were models of religious tolerance and enlightenment in terms of culture, architecture, education and healthcare has long since been overshadowed by forced proselytisation, menacing fatwa’s and jihaddism.
In many countries, which experienced the short-lived “Arab Spring”, many leading writers have now described as being a ”Christian winter” for non-Muslim communities living in those places. Christians have been under real threat in countries like Tunisia, Syria, Egypt and Libya since the regime changes.
But in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, Christian communities whose heritage stretches backs centuries live under active discrimination in law and civic life in these so called democracies!
The rise of ISIS (now known IS) under the leadership of this mad mullah, Abu Bakr-al Baghdadi is the stuff of nightmares for Christians in Syria, Iraq and the Levant. Christians communities living in these areas are given the option of “convert to Islam, pay a fine ($250 a month) to practice their faith or die.” Many are dying.
Some of their women are literally being rounded up and sold into slavery. Most disturbing of all are the stories of rapes; beheadings and ritual hangings made to look like crucifixions. Churches are being bulldozed and burned down. Over one hundred thousand Christians are currently seeking refuge in the semi autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Fifty thousand Chaldean Catholics who fled places like Mosul and Qaraqosh are living in the mountains now relying on humanitarian aid. It may be less trendy but it’s no less just to protest equitably about the fate of millions of beleaguered Christians as well as the Palestinians.
As it happens Damian Thompson wrote a penetrating piece in the Spectator a few weeks ago, which puts its finger on the confusion abroad in the secularised post Christian west…
None of these developments shows religion in a good light. That’s partly because, when religion reasserts itself, it’s usually against a background of conflict. Is it to blame for that conflict?
The American economist Eli Berman points out the paradox that, in our time-hungry society, it’s the time-consuming strict varieties of Christianity, Judaism and Islam that are growing fastest.
Likewise Buddhism and Hinduism. Religions of total immersion create social bonds that sustain the disorientated. Unfortunately those bonds can also provide potent moral support for violence. Terrorist attacks by religious fanatics kill four times as many people per incident as those committed by political extremists.
The states where faith is reshaping politics tend to be those whose failure would be disastrous for the West. Yet — and this point can’t be stressed too often — our leaders know next to nothing about world religions, including those whose adherents have arrived on their doorstep. They’d better start learning, fast.
He adds in this associated conversation with Cristina Odone that “the young metropolitan elite who will be running the Western world in ten years time have no significant religious beliefs”.
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Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty