Persecuted and Persecutors

Yesterday, a United Kingdom-based charity group in London called Aid to the Church in Need (CAN) released a report entitled Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2007/8.

The report, endorsed by Catholic Cardinals Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Keith O’Brien, asserts that violence against Christians has not only increased in the last two years, but that Christians are now the most persecuted group in the world. ACN’s UK director, Neville Kyrke-Smith stated:

People are aware of an enormous number of human rights abuses throughout the globe, but they are not always aware of the denial of human rights to millions of Christians…The situation is worsening because it largely escapes media attention. We are suffering from a sort of ‘religious correctness’ which means that talking about the persecution of Christians is not acceptable to the secular media today, and sometimes they don’t even believe the facts.

The report limits the definition of persecution. It suggests, “Over-use has emptied the term ‘persecution’ of meaning and so the book adheres to the Oxford English Dictionary definition which describes persecution as a malicious act motivated by religious hostility.”

Persecuted and Forgetten? outlines the instances of violence against Christians in about 30 countries (mostly Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries).

So, what does the report cite as the cause of the rise of this Christians persecution?

Islamic fundamentalism (and Hinduism and Buddhism).

The executive summary of the report states, “A common theme among these countries—and other serial offenders such as Egypt and northern Nigeria and Saudi Arabia—is the rise of religious fundamentalism. Persecuted and Forgotten? underlines the rise of militant Islamist aggression against Christianity—and the same concern can be raised regarding Hinduism in India and Buddhism in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.”

Perhaps violence against Christians has increased as the report suggests. However, there is a danger in a one-sided report that names Islamic fundamentalism as the chief cause of the persecution of Christians. This “blame game” breeds more violence and discrimination—only this time Muslims are experiencing the brunt of it.

Since September 11 and the onset of the war in Iraq, violence and discrimination against Muslims has increased exponentially—in the United Kingdom, the United States, and around the world. Misconceptions about Muslims and Islam are strewn about as fact (as evidenced in the mudslinging of the US elections).

Certainly Islamic fundamentalism has been a cause of violence around the world. There is no doubt. If Persecuted and Forgotten? had been more well-rounded it would have asked how Christian fundamentalism has been a catalyst for violence around the world as well—how the street has gone both ways.

As Christianity teaches (I’m summarizing here): Blaming just won’t solve anything.