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Analyst highlights persecution

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today, according to the International Society for Human Rights, which says 80 percent of all religious acts of discrimination target Christians.

In his talk Monday night titled “The Global War on Christians,” CNN’s senior Vatican analyst John Allen highlighted countries experiencing heavy persecution of Christians today and debunked myths about such conflicts while arguing that the American Church can take a bigger role in addressing these heinous acts. Allen’s address was the second keynote address of the “Seed of the Church” conference on Christian martyrs.

“We are talking in my opinion about the most dramatic, most compelling, most urgent Christian narrative of our time,” Allen said.

Allen said according to the Pew Forum, persecution of Christians occurs in 133 countries. According to Aid to the Church in Need, about 150,000 Christians have been killed in religious conflict each year of the 21st century.

“In the hour that we are going to be together tonight, somewhere on this planet, 11 Christians are losing their lives,” Allen said. “This number is not only astonishing but obscene.”

One place Allen described as an epicenter of Christian persecution is Iraq. Even though this region was an integral part of the early Church, Iraq’s Christian population has shrunk from between one and a half and two million in 1991 to fewer than 450,000 today, Allen said.

“A Church that took two millennia to construct has been gutted essentially in two decades,” he said.

Since American intervention in Iraq has exacerbated sectarian tensions, putting Christians at greater risk for persecution, Allen said the American Church has an obligation to assist Iraqi Christians.

“Given what we profess as Catholics and given the responsibility we bear as Americans, the fact that the situation facing the Church in Iraq is not a … top-of-the-brain concern for the Catholic Church in the United States is nothing less than a moral scandal,” he said. “Our failure to apply our last best efforts to meaningful gestures of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Iraq is quite simply inexcusable.”

Allen said most people falsely believe Christian persecution can only come from regions where Muslim extremism is prevalent.

“If somehow tomorrow, radical Islam were to disappear, the threats to Christians would hardly be gone,” he said. “What we face is a bewildering cocktail of threats.”

Some threatening groups include radical Hindus in India, nationalists in Turkey and even radical Christians, Allen said. Christians can also be persecuted in countries such as Mexico where they are the overwhelming religious majority, he said.

Another myth about Christian persecution is it is a political issue, Allen said.

“If we are going to take a clear-eyed look at the global war on Christians, we cannot try to see it through the funhouse mirror of secular politics,” he said.

Most of all, Allen said Americans can support persecuted Christians abroad merely by being mindful of their situation.

When he interviewed Christian Syrian refugees in Lebanon during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Beirut, Allen said they all agreed on how Western Christians could help them.

“Do you want to know the number one must popular answer by far they gave me that they said would make the most tangible and appreciable difference to them?” he said. “The answer was, ‘Don’t forget about us.’ … You and I cannot solve the problems of the world. We can’t make the violence in Syria go away tomorrow, but we can try to find creative ways to broadcast the message that we have not forgotten them and that we are paying attention.”

Contact Tori Roeck at
vroeck@nd.edu