Veteran journalist John L. Allen, a recognized expert in Christian persecution, has launched a controversial proposal that Christians create a memorial to Christian persecution, similar to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, to remind them of the blood-soaked witness of their brothers and sisters.
Allen, bestselling author of The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, attributed the germ of his idea to a conversation with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who recently asked him why Christians do not have their own body of writing, art, drama, and music inspired by Christianity’s new martyrs as the Jewish people have their memorials to the Holocaust.
Why, Allen asks, is there not a Schindler’s List about the Christians who perished in Kandhamal, India, in 2008, “in the largest orgy of anti-Christian violence of the early 21st century”? Why isn’t there a Diary of Anne Frank for the “children of Christian converts from Islam, who are often forced to go into hiding out of fear for their lives?”
He says that if Christians don’t have more memorial literature, art, and institutes, it certainly isn’t for lack of raw material, since “a Christian is killed for reasons related to the faith somewhere in the world every two hours.” It is more often out of ignorance.
Allen recently returned from a two-week visit to Nigeria, where he interviewed numerous victims of persecution at the hands of the Boko Haram Islamist movement; it was the latest of a series of trips around the world to better understand the suffering faced by Christians today.
One example he recounts is that of Sister Meena Lalita Barwa, a Catholic nun who was serving in Kandhamal when she and a local priest, Father Thomas Chellen, were dragged into the streets by rabid Hindu radicals shouting, “Kill Christians!”
Barwa was raped by at least one man; she cannot remember the number, as she lost consciousness during the attack. She was then paraded through the streets of the village semi-naked while the mob continued to howl.
“Because Jesus Christ wasn’t a woman, there were certain kinds of suffering he couldn’t experience in his own body in order to save the world,” she says. “I like to think I helped to complete his sacrifice.”
Allen’s worry is that Christians may allow Barwa’s story and so many like it to be forgotten, which would be “a serious failure of both solidarity and imagination.”
As in the case of Yad Vashem, Allen says, Christians could benefit from a world-class center of remembrance, research, and advocacy, the mission of which would be to ensure that testimonies are collected and that the world is never allowed to forget.
Far from competing with Jews or other persecuted groups, Allen says, “it would be to ensure that no one’s pain is ignored, including that of Christians.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.