Islamic Persecution of Christians
A book that relates the untold story of the murder of 45 million Christians in the 20th century alone has caused controversy in Italy. The author of The New Persecuted: Inquiries into Anti-Christian Intolerance in the New Century of Martyrs, Antonio Socci, has been accused of "demonizing Islam" by raising the issue of Christian suffering in the Muslim world.
Socci provides evidence that in the past 2,000 years some 70 million Christians have been killed primarily or exclusively for the reason of their faith, two-thirds in the past 100 years alone, with Joseph Stalin as the chief culprit. He says that an average of 160,000 Christians have been killed every year since 1990, the vast majority by Muslims in the Third World. Chronicling attacks, pogroms and wars in East Timor, Indonesia, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, India, and the Balkans, Socci identifies Islamic extremism as the main danger. And yet, says he, "This global persecution of Christianity is still in progress but in most cases is ignored by the mass media and Christians in the west."
Western indifference to Christian suffering, documented by Antonio Socci, is well illustrated by the recent standoff at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of the holiest Christian sites in the Holy Land, which was re-consecrated last month after being occupied by Arab gunmen and besieged by the Israeli army for 38 days. While extensively covered because of its photogenic value and its potential for further bloodshed, the stand-off has caused hardly a ripple in the Western world on what should be the obvious grounds for media scrutiny and public concern: the misuse and abuse of a Christian shrine by warring non-Christians in pursuit of their political objectives. The Bethlehem episode is thus illustrative of two parallel processes overlooked in the current Middle Eastern crisis: the apparently terminal decline of the Christian remnant in the Middle East after two millennia of precarious and mostly painful existence, and the remarkable indifference of the post-Christian Western world to its impending demise.
Already by their choice of the stage for what soon became a propaganda exercise the Muslim gunmen who occupied the church desecrated the basilica built on the site of the grotto where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born. They ate the food they found on the premises until it ran out, while more than 150 civilians went hungry. They consumed alcoholic drinks that they found in priests' quarters, undeterred by the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol. They tore up Bibles up for toilet paper. They turned one corner of the ancient church into an impromptu mosque. They even attempted to bury seven of their comrades, who were subsequently killed by Israeli snipers, inside the church or on its grounds -- obviously intending to turn one of the holiest Christian shrines into a place of Islamic pilgrimage to the fallen "martyrs."
Two weeks before the siege of the Church of the Nativity, as Israeli forces stormed into Bethlehem, an Israeli tank shell hit the facade of the nearby Holy Family Church, in a complex with an orphanage, hospital and hostel. The soldiers then fired, from fifty yards' distance, at the statue of the Virgin atop the Holy Family Church. The statue lost its left arm and its face was disfigured. The Israeli army expressed regret and promised investigation, but this did not look like an accidental shot: no terrorist could possibly hide behind the figure on the pinnacle of the hospital church. The story was reported by Reuters, and a picture taken by an AP photographer. It was available to the world media but ignored. These two incidents illustrate the predicament of the dwindling Christian remnant in the Middle East. Once thriving Christian communities are now minorities squeezed between the warring Jews and Muslims who may hate each other but all too often share their aversion to Christianity. Institutionalized or covert discrimination to which Christians are subjected in Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon, accompanied by occasional eruptions of anti-Christian violence by the Muslim majority in the last two countries, have contributed to an exodus that threatens to eradicate the believers in Christ in the lands of his birth and life. (Excerpted from Chronicles Magazine)
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