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Sunday, 9 January 2011

Anti-Christian crimes downplayed

Steve Huntley, Jan 7, 2011, from the Chicago Sun-Times
We’ve heard outlandish allegations of Islamophobia sweeping America. Not getting nearly as much attention is the bloody persecution of Christians in parts of the Muslim world.

Every report of an Islamist terrorist plot is accompanied by a chorus of warnings against Americans hating or attacking Muslim Americans. Yet, that much-ballyhooed bigotry almost never seems to arise. The latest FBI hate crime statistics, for 2009, found that 8.4 percent of the 1,575 victims of anti-religious crimes were attacked because of anti-Islamic bias. In contrast, 71.9 percent of the victims were Jews.

No doubt acts of intolerance against Muslims can be found, and they should be condemned. But Muslims aren’t fleeing America in fear of their lives like Christians are leaving some Islamic nations.

Open Doors, an organization supporting persecuted Christian churches, asserts 100 million Christians worldwide are targeted for their faith. It found that eight of the top 10 countries that are the most dangerous for Christians to practice their religion are nations with Islamic majorities, including Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. Topping the list was communist North Korea.

New on this year’s Open Doors list is Iraq, to the shame of that nation’s new leadership and of its biggest backer, the United States. More than half of Iraq’s Christian population, numbering 800,000 to 1.4 million before the 2003 U.S. invasion, have fled the country, according to the New York Times.

As the U.S. military footprint has receded, violence against Iraqi Christians has surged. The worst recent attack was an Oct. 31 siege of the Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral in Baghdad that killed 51 worshipers and two priests. More carnage followed in a wave of bombings and killings aimed at Christians. In one ghastly case, a Christian woman who survived the Baghdad church attack was murdered in her bed.

In another mass attack against Christians, a suicide bomber detonated at a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, last weekend, killing 21. Compounding an act of Christianity hate with a dose of anti-Semitism, Egypt blamed Israel’s Mossad spy agency for the attack. Israel is one country in the Middle East that has seen its Christian population grow, with Palestinian Christians fleeing persecution in the West Bank ruled by the Palestinian Authority.

Anti-Christian atrocities are far from uncommon. The State Department this week said it is “deeply concerned” by increasing attacks on Christians in the Middle East and Africa, citing Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria. Christmas Eve church attacks and explosions in Nigeria killed 38 people. In Afghanistan, a prosecutor threatened the death penalty against two Afghans who converted to Christianity. Islamic organizations are blamed for multiple attacks on churches in Indonesia. A Somali teenager was murdered last month for converting to Christianity. The Taliban kidnapped and killed three Christian relief workers in Pakistan last summer.

Just being tolerant of Christianity can make you a marked man. A prominent Pakistani governor was assassinated Tuesday by his bodyguard. His crime: Working to repeal blasphemy laws used to persecute minorities and standing up for a Christian woman sentenced to death under those laws. An influential group of more than 500 Muslim clerics and scholars paid tribute to the killer. This organization represents Pakistan’s majority Barelvi sect, which according to the AP, “follows a brand of Islam considered moderate.”

Can anyone imagine the Catholic College of Cardinals justifying murder of non-Christians? Islamist terrorism is more than a bunch of thugs killing people. It’s enabled by radical theology from influential clerics, authoritarian governments using hate of “the other” to manipulate restive populations, and too much silence, or worse, acquiescence in the Muslim world.

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