Editorial: Silence Isn’t Golden

Rarely is there agreement on major issues between Newsweek, run by the left-leaning Tina Brown, and the neo-conservative flagship Commentary, still the flagship of the neo-conservative movement. But both recently published major articles on the widespread and growing violent persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

In Newsweek’s Feb. 13 cover story by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the term “Christophobia” is coined to describe the persecution of Christians among Arab and Mulsim nations. David Aikman in the Feb. 2012 edition of Commentary writes of “The Worldwide Attack on Christians.” Both articles deserve attention by anyone concerned about religious persecution and violence.

Ali writes that, “From one end of the Muslim world to the other, Christians are being murdered for their faith…In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania.” One example she cites is the particularly vicious persecution of Christians in Nigeria, where 40 percent of the 160 million citizens are Christians. The terrorist group Boko Haram has been responsible since January 2012 alone for 54 deaths and in 2011, its members killed a least 510 people and burned down or destroyed more than 350 churches in 10 northern states.

In Sudan, she says, widespread persecution of Christians continues unabated. In the new nation of South Sudan, “the violence (against Christians) has not ended. Christians are still subjected to aerial bombardment, targeted killings, the kidnapping of children and other atrocities.” She also cites United Nations reports that “between 53,000 to 75,000 innocent civilians have been displaced from their residences.”

Ali points out the “media’s reticence on the subject,” which she attributes in part to “fear of provoking additional violence” and the influence of various groups that pounce on criticism as examples of “Islamophobia.” Ali strikes home the point that “a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to another.”

Similar alarm bells are sounded in David Aikman’s Commentary piece. The veteran journalist and history professor notes that in October 2011, Arab Spring took a “dark turn in Cairo, Egypt,” when mobs began throwing rocks at Coptic Christians last October. The young Copts had been protesting the burning of a Coptic church in Aswan and the failure of Egyptian authorities to respond satisfactorily.

Aikman stresses that the incident he cites “is about more than the Arab Spring turning into an antidemocratic winter. It is an example of a worldwide plague-growing in frequency and brutality-the persecution of Christians.”Aikman cites a Pew Forum study in 2011 that “estimated that Christians are persecuted, either by government or hostile social forces in an incredible 131 of he world’s 193 countries.”

A search on YouTube of “Christian persecution,” Aikman adds, yields, at random, footage documenting the beheading of a Korean Christian in Iraq; churches and Christian-owned businesses burned in Orissa, India; a pastor in South Sudan whose hands were burned to stumps when a mob that had torched his church forced him back inside it, the rampage of an Ethiopian mob against a Christian village and the imprisonment of 235 Christians from 35 cities in six months in Iran.

Why are these outrages not detailed in America media on a regular and persistent basis? Why have not the United Nations, its United States ambassadors and NATO allies demanded resolutions by the U.N. Security Council demanding an end to the worldwide violence?

While news of, and actions denouncing, the dreadful acts against Christians may be suppressed for any number of reasons, make no mistake – barbaric acts against any group for its religious beliefs are abhorrent, and no collective world effort of any kind will be fully effective unless and until violence is condemned loudly, equally and universally. The world turned its back on Jews more than a half-century ago until it was too late, and that same world continues to let far too many atrocities occur in the post-Holocaust era.

We urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the very capable U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, a leading advocate for oppressed peoples, to raise the issue of the persecution of Christians at the highest levels to demand that such atrocities stop immediately. We as Jews know too well the cost of silence in the face of obvious and growing death tolls against any religion in any corner of the world.