Not enough be­ing done to halt per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians

Toronto Star - - OPINION - Dow Mar­mur Dow Mar­mur is rabbi emer­i­tus at Toronto’s Holy Blos­som Tem­ple. His col­umn ap­pears ev­ery four weeks.

“Nei­ther the hor­ror of what Chris­tians go through at the hands of Is­lamists and oth­ers, nor the scale of the cri­sis of Chris­tian pop­u­la­tions in the Mid­dle East es­pe­cially, ap­pears to be widely known, let alone the sub­ject of pub­lic con­cern.” So wrote Peter D. Wil­liams, the Catholic so­cial and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor in the on­line jour­nal Spiked.

His ar­ti­cle was pub­lished at the end of last May, days af­ter 28 Cop­tic Chris­tians were killed and many more wounded on their way to a monastery in Egypt. The same week, Wil­liams re­ported, there were also two at­tacks on Chris­tians in the Philip­pines.

His con­clu­sion is that “it’s hard not to sus­pect that the rea­son why the per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians is not be­ing re­ported widely across the globe is not merely due to over-fa­mil­iar­ity, but be­cause of ac­tive dis­in­ter­est.” He sug­gests that “more could and would be done if the Western me­dia gave Chris­tians sub­jected to the cru­ellest and filth­i­est forms of tor­tu­ous hate the at­ten­tion and con­cern their sit­u­a­tion truly de­serves.”

As a re­sult, ac­cord­ing to Prof. Jonathan Adel­man of the Univer­sity of Den­ver writ­ing in the World Post, the Chris­tian pop­u­la­tion in the Mid­dle East has dropped from 20 per cent in 1900 to 4 per cent to­day. It’s likely to drop another per­cent­age point by 2050.

The only ex­cep­tion is the Jewish state of Is­rael where, ac­cord­ing to Adel­man, “the 160,000 Is­raeli Chris­tians live as cit­i­zens in a demo­cratic First World coun­try with free­dom of re­li­gion, rule of law and open elec­tions.” They can move any­where, their holy places are se­cure and their churches own much land in Jerusalem.

Adel­man isn’t blind to prob­lems that the Chris­tian mi­nor­ity is fac­ing also in Is­rael, mostly by the hands of bu­reau­crats and some Jewish fa­nat­ics. Yet, he in­sists, “Is­rael is the only place in the Mid­dle East where the Chris­tians are grow­ing in num­ber. They are ex­celling in ed­u­ca­tion, do­ing well in busi­ness and feel­ing rel­a­tively safe from their rad­i­cal tor­men­tors.”

Jews have known for much of their his­tory the lethal power of re­li­gious prej­u­dice, much of it man­i­fest as Chris­tian anti-Semitism. It’s there­fore grat­i­fy­ing to know that, de­spite the past, Jews are now pro­vid­ing a safe haven for Chris­tians.

But Is­rael isn’t in a po­si­tion to solve the global prob­lem. Col­lec­tively, how­ever, the Western world — where most Chris­tians re­side and many still greatly in­flu­ence pub­lic dis­course and pol­icy — could and should do very much more than it seems to be do­ing.

That was os­ten­si­bly the pur­pose of the World Sum­mit in De­fence of Per­se­cuted Chris­tians held in Wash­ing­ton in early May. U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence made the promis­ing dec­la­ra­tion that “pro­tect­ing and pro­mot­ing re­li­gious free­dom is a for­eign pol­icy pri­or­ity of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Though he as­sured the au­di­ence they “have the prayers of the pres­i­dent of the United States” and that “the suf­fer­ing of Chris­tians in the Mid­dle East has stirred Amer­i­cans to ac­tion,” it’s not clear if this will go be­yond rhetoric and re­sult in tan­gi­ble deeds.

Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced Catholic-laced anti-Semitism as a child in Poland af­ter the hor­rors of the Holo­caust, I iden­tify with the mil­lions of Chris­tians around the world who are now fac­ing ex­tinc­tion. I’m as­tounded that the very re­source­ful churches here and else­where don’t seem to be do­ing enough to pro­tect them. Some, par­tic­u­larly os­ten­si­bly lib­eral Chris­tians, ap­pear to be much keener to find faults with Is­rael’s treat­ment of Mus­lims than to ac­tively sup­port Chris­tians in Mus­lim lands.

Even if they may not be able to de­feat ex­trem­ism, they should seek mea­sures to pro­tect Chris­tian mi­nori­ties in ways that go far be­yond U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s prayers.

Col­lec­tively, the Western world . . . could and should do very much more than it seems to be do­ing

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