The findings of the report launched earlier this week by Aid to the Church in Need are deeply saddening but not shocking. Such is the extent of the persecution of Christian minorities in 22 countries spread mainly across Muslim Africa and the Middle East that the faith risks becoming a regional rather than a global concern.
This is a tragedy both for the Church and the faithful who are affected. It is a tragedy that has been inflicted on Christian minorities often by the ineptitude of the West in matters of high strategy.
At first glance, this is an odd statement. Problems for Christians in the worst affected countries – Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the Sudan – arise primarily because of Islamic aggression. In this, though, the attitude of Islam towards Christian minorities is constant. It oscillates in its aggression between the jizya levied in the early days of the Ottoman Empire, to the total war currently being waged by Isis against the Yazidi Christians. Very few faiths do not call upon their adherents to evangelise, and Islamic evangelisation utilises both the soldier and the bureaucrat as well as the preacher.
This has been well understood in the West for a long time and, until recent decades, well contained. That it is now rampant calls us to look at what has changed.
Firstly, Christians have been the main victims of the absurd insistence of the British, French and Americans in overthrowing ‘bad’ secular dictatorships across the Middle East and arming ‘good’ rebels based on the formula that no group whose moniker contains ‘democratic’ and ‘front’ can be anything other than stuffed to the gills with moderate constitutionalists. The result is the arming of monsters and the consequent carnage, disorder and ethnic cleansing.
Secondly, with the exception of Russia (itself criticised in the report), there are no Christian powers remaining with the force of will to intervene and protect Christian minorities. The doctrine of absolute equality between religions, which the Catholic Church itself precipitated with Dignitas Humanae, is now entrenched across the West. Without powerful allies and secular protection, the Church will always be an easy target, particularly set against the theocratic Middle Eastern states whose sphere of influence and funding extends to the furtherance of their religious doctrine of choice in the West. Compare and contrast the Saudi Arabian funding for mosque building in the UK with David Cameron presenting the Pope with a copy of the Koran in 2012.
Finally, there is the fact that many of those in influential positions in the West, not least those in charge of the perpetual outrage machine that seems to drive much of domestic policy, actively dislike Christianity and would be pleased to see it disappear. I suspect this is because if Christianity is true then the gods of the businessman (capital), the liberal (ourselves), and the millennial (oneself) all become worthless. It is hard for a person born and bred within a broadly Christian society to regard other faiths in quite the same way. They may be exotic, interesting, worthy of respect, but I doubt if many of us ever considers seriously whether they may or may not be true. When we think of God, it is still the Christian God whose claim on us we hold up to inspection, and as much of society would find it preferable if He did not exist, so too the wholesale murder of His people seems of less concern to the majority of the British than, for instance, the relatively benign living conditions of Muslims in Israel.
What is happening to Christians to our South and East is one of the great humanitarian crimes of this century. The mindset which has led to it in the West is, however, also a crime, albeit an intellectual one. Two thousand years of Christian society is collapsing backwards into the power and money fetishes which it had painstakingly conquered. The whole world stands diminished as a result.