Of the church’s many blessings, one is especially important. It is blessed to exist in a country that takes pride in extending to all citizens a freedom to peacefully practice whatever religion they choose.
Christians in the Middle East, however, face a bloody, polar-opposite reality.
Coptic Christians ringing in the 2011 new year in Alexandria, Egypt, were bombed by Islamic terrorists at Two Saints Church. Twenty-three people died; about 100 were injured.
The year before, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, Iraq, was attacked during Mass. Fifty-eight Chaldean Catholics died; hundreds more were wounded.
Members of the ISIS terrorist organization who have taken control of portions of Iraq and Syria recently gave a grim set of choices to Iraqi Christians in the northern city of Mosul: Leave the city with nothing; stay and pay a fine; convert to Islam; or die.
Last September, the Somali Islamic militant group al-Shabab invaded a Nairobi, Kenya, shopping mall, and very deliberately separated Muslims from non-Muslims at gunpoint. Muslims were allowed to go free, while non-Muslims – if they couldn’t correctly answer questions about Islam – were killed.
Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamist group has murdered, by one estimate, more than 1,500 Christians so far this year, and have burned churches to the ground.
With such savagery unleashed on Christians around the world, you’d think President Obama – the leader of a nation containing more than 246 million Christians – would take an impassioned public stand on behalf of all these dead and threatened innocents.
He hasn’t. But we hear he threw a lovely iftar dinner July 14 to mark the end of a day’s fasting during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan.
By doing that, he has appeared to have devoted more American money and resources toward respecting Islam in this country than toward directly addressing the plight of fatally persecuted Christians in the Mideast, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
He hasn’t even directly spoken to the American people about this blood-soaked injustice – and this is a president who never seems to tire of talking in front of a live video camera.
The State Department has been slightly more forthcoming, issuing its annual International Religious Freedom Report on July 28. It specifically cited Syria, where “the Christian presence is becoming a shadow of its former self.”
Far too few people worldwide are fueling an outcry in response to the oppressive violence and harassment being endured by some of the world’s oldest Christian communities. And it’s unconscionable that the countries allowing such violence are still allowed any level of participation on the world stage.
Ed West, deputy editor of The Catholic Herald, has pointed out that the 2022 World Cup is scheduled to take place in the Muslim nation of Qatar, where converting to Christianity carries a penalty of death. Should that level of religious intolerance be rewarded by lavishing on Qatar the prestige and financial windfall of playing host to the world’s largest and most prestigious soccer tournament?
There’s a quote often misattributed to Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The lack of a definitive source, however, doesn’t make the words any less true. Every nation that embraces freedom should rise and stand with oppressed Christians everywhere.