Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, but currently it is not popular to focus on this fact. It doesn’t win you any brownie points politically, so why do it? Even the word “Christian” apparently gives many politicians worldwide the creepy-crawlies. While President Obama chose to focus on the Crusades at the National Prayer Breakfast, (in his ongoing efforts to make us all equal by bringing down ”high horse” Christians a peg or two), less than two weeks later in Libya twenty-one Coptic Christians were killed for their beliefs in a mass beheading at the edge of the sea.
They died as unwavering Christians, faith intact, calling out to God as the cowardly sword-wielders masked their own faces. Just over a week ago, Muslim refugees fleeing Africa threw fellow refugees who were Christian overboard for praying to God after the dinghy they were drifting in sprang a leak. “We only pray to Allah here,” the murderers stated, before beginning to toss human beings into the sea. Boko Haram last month pledged allegiance to ISIS (via Twitter, so they must be serious) and has vowed to continue religious cleansing, searing swaths of Africa with its attacks on Christians. Today, Ethiopia begins three days of national mourning for more than twenty Ethiopian Christians killed by Islamic State militants in Libya. Both Muslims and Christians join in this remembrance.
In his Good Friday message, Pope Francis decried what he termed “the complicit silence” of the world in the murder of Christians, particularly in the Middle East and Northern Africa. But why are world leaders not recognizing the significant uptick in violence against Christianity, and the efforts by Islamic extremists to stamp out Christians completely? Why must it be leaders of churches that point to the obvious? Is the murder of a faith group their purview alone? What is so politically incorrect about saying that Christians are under attack? Italian prime minister Mateo Renzi ducked the obvious when speaking about the refugees thrown overboard while trying to reach Italian shores, stating “The problem is not (a) problem of a clash of religions,” directly contradicting the Italian authorities who proceeded to charge the Muslim refugees with “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate,” according to the BBC.
Obama (unsurprisingly) said nothing while standing with the Italian Prime Minister after the Christian murders at a joint press conference. The first to raise Cain when an African American or a Muslim is attacked (without the benefit of all the facts, many times), our President — the leader of the free world and the head of a nation largely populated by Christians — cannot feel enough of a true sense of fairness to call this what it is: the extreme escalation of murder of Christians by Muslim extremists because of the God they worship. That is the one and only reason they are targeted: their faith. What is so wrong about voicing that? How does it make you “more fair” by largely leaving this burning topic alone, Mr. President? You profess Christianity yourself. Doesn’t your own stated faith move you to speak out on behalf of your brothers and sisters? Something is not adding up, it is either a willful blindness or a “complicit silence,” as the Pope termed it.
So, while ISIS concentrates on Syria and Iraq in its cleansing of Christians, Boko Haram will concentrate on Nigeria’s seventy million Christians, as well as conquering West Africa in its quest for a pure religious state. They have already killed thousands of people who don’t share their ideology, and have displaced one million people so far.
It is more comfortable, and certainly more popular, for President Obama to deal with racial inequality than it is to deal with religious persecution. It plays better; it sound-bites better. But experts warn that this is a tide that will not turn unless there is direct international intervention, and the tide may swell to a tsunami that directly affects America.
You can speak to both race and religious issues, Mr. President. You can stand up for every faith around the globe that is under persecution. The world, and your brother and sisters of the faith, are waiting on you to do just that.
Deirdre Reilly has written one humor book, and authored a syndicated family life column for Gatehouse Media for 13 years. She has won a Massachusetts Press Award for humor, her op-eds have been published in the Boston Herald and The Hartford Courant, and she has had short fiction published in literary journals. Deirdre was raised in Columbia, Md., and now lives outside Boston, Ma. She enjoys outdoor pursuits, and is obsessed with the care and happiness of a retired carriage horse named Nello that she bought for a few hundred dollars on a menopausal whim.