Just a few weeks ago Prince Charles, a man sometimes criticized for being too supportive and praising of Britain’s Muslim community, made a passionate speech calling for the Islamic world to stop persecuting its Christian minorities. It was entirely coincidental but hugely significant that the same day of the royal statement, it was reported that a Christian couple had been beaten to death in Pakistan for allegedly defacing a copy of the Koran.
Whether they did such a thing is doubtful but, anyway, irrelevant. Only barbaric regimes and barbaric religions believe in killing people for marking inanimate objects.
The victims were a young couple, hoping to build a life for themselves even though their country, Pakistan, routinely persecuted Christians. As such they were moving into a new house and in clearing out the possessions of the family who had previously lived there they may have moved a box that contained a copy of The Koran. That’s all. But it was enough.
First their legs were broken so that they could not run away. Then they were beaten to death. Then their bodies were burned beyond recognition. I wish I could say that this grotesque incident was unique or even rare; tragically it is not, and has been repeated and replicated in almost every country where followers of Islam form a majority of the population.
There were times when I was writing my new book, Hatred: Islam’s War on Christianity, when I felt like giving the whole enterprise up. It was a dark, depressing exercise but also a vital one and one I am proud to have achieved.
The call of Christians persecuted in Islamic countries is, if you will, a silent scream – a roar of pain and suffering ignored as if noiseless by so many in mainstream media and the political and religious establishments of North America and Europe.
I have even heard clergy dismiss this bloodbath as “overblown” or to argue that to expose it would be “damaging to ecumenism.” God forgive them.
I shouldn’t have to re-state the case but, for the uninitiated, Christians are the most persecuted identifiable group in the world. I do not mean culture clashes and legal battles in the West, I mean the daily slaughter, rape, literal crucifixion, forced conversion and exile of Christians in Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Indonesia, Sudan, Turkey, Iran and pretty much anywhere else in the Islamic world.
There are some exceptions, and Jordan and parts of North Africa are trying to protect their Christian minorities, but the trend is all in the wrong direction.
Christians are also oppressed in China and North Korea but this is about control rather than anti-Christian theology and nobody believes these nations’ Communist regimes have a long-term future.
India has also seen examples of appalling violence against Christians, but these are rare, and are contrary to Hindu culture, and both the Indian regional and central government intervene immediately.
This is not about individual Muslims, we must never react to anti-Christian oppression with hysteria and violence, and we must build bridges with those with whom we disagree. But we must also stand up and admit end expose that the slaughter of the innocents is taking place. I am tired, so tired, of the denial and the obfuscation. There are only so many tears one can see and so many moans of pain one can hear.
The standard response from many Muslims is that it’s not happening or that if it is happening it has nothing to do with Islam. The former claim is so hideous as to be reminiscent of Holocaust denial; the latter is yet to be proven but I am more than happy to dialogue with Muslims who believe this and to work out ways to make matters better. But then there are non-Muslims who out of anti-Christian animus, ignorance, of rigid relativism are indifferent to or frightened to believe the facts.
What happens next is uncertain. The persecution is increasing, those Muslim-dominated nations where Christians were not badly treated are falling to fundamentalism, and because of oil, money and power struggles the west generally prefers to say nothing. This is not due to turning the other cheek but turning a blind eye, this is not about reconciliation but moral and political cowardice.
We have to demand that Pakistan remove its blasphemy law; if not, we remove aid and support. We have to put enormous pressure of our alleged allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to allow Christians to worship freely. We have to condemn the concept of violent jihad and call for it to be condemned by Muslim leaders. We have to insist that Christians, women, gays, minorities are allowed the same – not more and not less – rights within the house of Islam as in the world outside. Then a civilized conversation can at least begin. We might, however, be waiting quite some time.