Western Christians celebrate Christmas openly and joyously, sometimes not just by raiding shopping malls. Their houses are lavishly decorated with Christmas paraphernalia inside out, and they don’t seem to fear that a neighbour might toss a Molotov cocktail through the window by way of theological debate.
Alas, the same can’t be said about Christians in the Middle East or elsewhere in the Muslim world, be it North Africa, Central Africa or Indonesia. In those places churches are blown up or torched, Christians are forced to convert to Islam on pain of having their throats slit. Thousands aren’t even given this option of saving their bodies at the expense of their souls.
This description of the general situation is short on novelty appeal: such things have been going on with various degrees of intensity for 1,400 years. But degrees of intensity do vary, and not necessarily just within such a lofty timeframe.
At this time of the year, the French newspaper Le Figaro always runs a large feature on the persecution of Christians, complete with a world map of atrocities. Picked out in yellow are countries in which Christians suffer sporadic violence and discrimination. Marked in red are countries in which Christians’ lives are in danger either due to state repression or endemic local violence.
This being a French newspaper, it’s guided by the Cartesian maxim that all knowledge springs from a comparison of two or more things. In that spirit this year’s article, 200 Million Christians Are Not Free to Express Their Faith, juxtaposes the 2013 map with the 2010 one.
One instantly spots that in the three intervening years red has become much more prevalent. In 2010 only Mauritania and Somalia rated this colour in Africa. In 2013 they are joined by Nigeria, Central African Republic, Libya, Egypt and Sudan.
The same proliferation is observable in the Middle East. There were only three ‘red’ countries in 2010: Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen. They’ve now added Syria to their ranks and, further afield, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Indonesia, the principal waver of the green flag in the Far East, has moved from yellow to red. India, she of 1.3 billion people, ditto, whereas China and North Korea have retained the red badge of dishonour.
Somewhat surprisingly Iran has remained ‘yellow’, but one must compliment their ayatollahs for doing their level best to join the not-so-exclusive ‘red’ club. And of course China and North Korea persecute all religions, not just Christianity, so at least they can’t be accused of discrimination.
It doesn’t take a huge leap of credulity to ascribe this staggering increase in anti-Christian violence to the aggressive war pursued by the nominally Christian USA and Britain, accompanied by their deranged instigation of the ‘Arab Spring’.
Nor does it require a wild flight of fancy to predict a wholesale massacre of Christians sure to follow the withdrawal of American and British troops in a year’s time.
The idiotic and criminal aggression against Iraq was supposed to introduce Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East. Instead it introduced a chaos liberally soaked with blood – much of it pouring out of Christian bodies, much of it on our hands.
Such an outcome was so utterly predictable that one is tempted to speculate that perhaps this was the intention in the first place. Do you think it’s just possible that the Americans deliberately set out to put an end to two millennia of Christianity in the Middle East? No, surely not. Not consciously at any rate.
A thousand years ago similar, if less widely spread, persecutions of Christians triggered the Crusades – this at a time when the West’s military position vis-à-vis Islam was much weaker.
This Christmas, the on-going massacre has triggered a few speeches by Western prelates and politicians, displaying roughly the same pitch of anger as that caused by Russia’s ban on homosexual propaganda in schools. This at a time when the West could punish the Muslims militarily and economically without working up a sweat.
Words will never hurt those fanatics, it’s sticks and stones that are needed. But in order to feel justified to wield sticks and throw stones, the West has to feel that Middle Eastern Christians are our brothers and sisters, an extension of our closest family.
A gentleman witnessing a blood-sputtering street brawl may cross over to the other side – but he’ll jump right in if it’s his brother’s blood that’s sputtering. The West manifestly feels no such kinship with Middle Eastern Christians. If anything, one detects mild irritation at the stubbornness with which they cling to their outdated superstition.
Yet the West has an opportunity of turning its asinine policy around and using its continued military presence in the Middle East to do some good. Now is the last window of opportunity to save Middle Eastern Christians by a combination of economic sanctions and cataclysmic military reprisals.
But first we must realise that we’re dealing not with misguided and misled friends but with deadly enemies. Military action in the region should be used not to introduce democracy, thereby killing Christians in the fallout, but to punish any anti-Christian violence, thereby saving Christian lives.
Such a goal would dictate a change in the nature of action: rather than having our soldiers die in meaningless skirmishes, we could threaten retaliation against Muslim capitals, rulers and perhaps even holy sites.
This could be precipitated by sweeping economic sanctions, including cutting off all aid to Muslim countries, freezing or possibly confiscating all their Western assets and potentially severing all trade relations. Let them eat petroleum.
Anyway, it’s not up to me to propose any specific military and economic steps. One would like to hope that the West still possesses enough professional expertise not to need a layman’s advice. But physical action must always be animated by metaphysical resolve and right reason. It’s in these areas that we are so lamentably lacking.
Let us all, Christians or otherwise, pray for Middle Eastern Christians to have centuries more of happy, safe Christmases in their own homes. And let’s put enough pressure on our governments to make sure this doesn’t remain a pipe dream.