The plight of Christians in Iraq and Africa | The obscenity of silence
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, asked “Why is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa?”
That’s a great question.
As Lauder pointed out, “In Europe and in the United States, we’ve witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who’ve been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza.”
Likewise, the United Nations “has held inquiries” into the goings on in Gaza. “But,” Lauder adds, “the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.”
As Lauder tells Times readers, “The Middle East and parts of central Africa are losing entire Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries.” And for examples, he cites Boko Haram’s preying on Christians in Nigeria and the “half a million Christian Arabs (that) have been driven out of Syria” during the past three years. And then, of course, there’s ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Lauder writes that “Historians may look back at this period and wonder if people had just lost their bearings.” He asks why “there are no flotillas traveling to Syria or Iraq” and why “the slaughter of Christians” doesn’t activate the “social antennas” of “the beautiful celebrities and aging rock stars.”
Not mincing any words, he called the world’s indifference to ISIS’ mass execution of Christians “obscene.”
And of course, he’s right. And the saddest part is that what Lauder writes is true also of Western Christians. In an interview on BreakPoint This Week, Georges Sada, a former Iraqi Air Force General and a Christian, told me that Iraq’s Christians had been let down by their brethren in the West. They expected Americans to save them and their ancient community, and it didn’t happen.
Why? Well, Rod Dreher, writing in his blog at the American Conservative, has a very plausible theory. He writes that “to many American conservatives, even conservative Christians, the Arab Christians of the Middle East are invisible. As far as they know, all Arabs are Muslims. Foreigners. Unlike us. End of story.”
Dreher’s theory is consistent with what the president of Open Doors USA told Lawrence Kaplan of the New Republic back in 2006. He explained the lack of concern among American Christians for their brethren in Iraq by saying that “the denominations in Iraq aren’t recognized by Americans . . . The underlying attitude is, ‘They’re not us.’”
On the other side of the political and religious divide, Dreher continues, “to many American (and European) liberals, all Christians are basically Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps. Christians are the yucky people they dislike at home.”
For liberals, “All Christians around the world are the same, and they are always and everywhere the persecutors, never the persecuted. The persecution of Christians does not suit the Narrative.”
Well, that narrative is tragically wrong. Canon Andrew White after a recent visit to northern Iraq wrote that he had “never witnessed anything on the scale, or which has affected [him] quite so dreadfully” as what he saw.
The only way things are going to get better is if we work overtime to be the difference to the indifference Lauder wrote about. A place to start might be by making sure, as Dreher suggested, that your pastor gets a copy of Lauder’s op-ed in the New York Times. Why not send it to the White House and the State Department as well? No doubt they’ve read it, but folks, it’s time to let them know that we’ve read it, too. It’s time for Christians in the West to make some noise.
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint, a radio commentary that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million.
Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries