WE ARE a morally and intellectually changed society. We no longer care. And our silence is action when it comes to the appalling persecution of Christians across the world, from the Middle East to Nigeria to China. One reason is the ‘Christophobia’ that plagues the secular liberal West.
Yesterday at a central London conference entitled ‘Invisible Victims: Persecuted Believers and Western Governments’ this was the crux of Lord Alton’s argument. His detailed account of the worldwide extent of Christian torture and annihilation, not least that taking place in Nigeria, was a devastating indictment of the Government’s careless attitude, as well as of our society generally. He ended with that famous Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotation: ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’
I hope to be able to bring you his speech once it is available on the website of the conference organiser, the Danube Institute.
Professor David Martin Jones’s lecture on ‘How the West Thinks’ followed. This was an examination of the rise of persecution in the context of the current crisis in Western ‘progressive’ thinking, its perverse encouragement of intolerance and what has become known as the ‘multicultural paradox’. This, too, I will link to when it is available.
In the meantime John O’Sullivan, president of the Danube Institute, has set out the broad problem – the persecution trap in which beleaguered Christians round the world find themselves – in advance of the conference in this month’s Catholic Herald.
His article opens with the counter-intuitive fact that Christianity is the largest faith in a world of thriving religions, a fact that is hard to grasp in face of ‘the mental picture that grips most Westerners, including many Christians, [which] is one of a dying faith in a disenchanted secular universe’.
In 2015 the four largest conventional world religions were, in descending order, Christianity (31.2 per cent of the global population), Islam (24.1 per cent), Hinduism (16 per cent) and Buddhism (7 per cent). Islam is on course to level with Christianity, if not overtake it, by 2060.
That is less the problem than the decline of Christianity. Between 2015 and 2020 the number of Christians in Europe will fall by 8.2million.
Christians are suffering a double persecution whammy – from the active persecution of victims in a rising tide of Islamist and jihadist fervour, political perversion of Islam and secularism, and also from ‘militantly atheist governments suspicious of all social activity not directly under their control’.
O’Sullivan cites North Korea and China as the most subtle, persistent and effective repressers of religious existence.
The third direction of attack is the lack of defence itself – the lack of powerful friends:
‘Persecuted Christian communities outside Europe can expect little help from Europe and, more surprisingly, little sanctuary either. An astonishingly small percentage of Syrian refugees granted asylum in Europe are Christian – namely, 0.2 per cent. And when it is suggested – as it was by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Australia – that a special category should be created for them, this was opposed as discriminatory and ran into the sands of bureaucracy. This is a classic case of an abstract principle of non-discrimination being employed in such a way as to ensure (or at least not to correct) an actual practice of discrimination that harms real people.’
I will finish with one shattering quotation from the article:
‘Western European governments don’t want to give special protection to Christians abroad because that would undermine their claims to represent a post-religious liberal international order rather than a specifically (post-) Christian viewpoint. That is the nearest thing to a religious imperative in Western diplomacy, and it was confirmed informally a few years ago at a meeting in Washington between State Department bureaucrats and religious pressure groups. Asked why the US did not call for more Christians to be admitted as refugees, the spokesman replied: “You won’t like my answer. The Europeans have asked us not to.”’
This article deserves the widest possible dissemination. It can be read in full here.