Around the world, and especially in Africa and Asia, Christian populations are suffering severe discrimination and brutal attacks. Thousands are being killed. Systematic campaigns are being waged against Christians simply because of their faith, and it is not too dramatic to suggest that these are forms of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Yet there is little awareness of these continuing atrocities in the West, and even less response.
Christianity is no longer a predominantly Western religion. Since 1900, there has been a startling growth of Christianity in Latin America, Africa and Asia, to the point that now, 65 percent of the world's 2 billion Christians live on one of those three continents. Christians now constitute the largest single religious group in Africa. Close to 350 million Christians live in Asia. But this dramatic growth has also fanned the flames of religious persecution and hatred against them.
In northern Nigeria, deadly religious violence occurs with regularity, killing hundreds at a time. Christians in Ethiopia have seen the destruction of 57 churches; thousands of Christians have been displaced, and some have been killed. In Sudan, the government has waged a decades-old war against Christians in southern part of the country. In Egypt, radicals now use the façade of democratic reforms to ramp up their continuing war against Coptic Christians, while the army looks the other way. Christians have lived in Iraq for 1,800 years, but recent violence threatens their very existence as a community. In Pakistan, religious violence and anti-blasphemy laws are used to suppress Christians, while prominent Christian politicians and their defenders are assassinated. In India, religious radicals attack Christian converts, while courts and political assemblies take away their rights. Religious violence against Christians occurs with depressing regularity in Indonesia, while the Chinese government cracks down on Christian churches, especially those that have chosen not to register with the communist government. In many countries around the world, anti-Christian activists have hijacked political processes to codify severe discrimination against Christians, making it illegal to convert to Christianity, while encouraging conversions from Christianity.
If you were to read carefully in the media, it would be easy to compile a much longer list of outrages; many other incidents are never covered in the Western press. There is certainly enough evidence to suggest that there are organized campaigns of terror and death against Christians in Africa and Asia. Groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Al-Qaida in Iraq, the Taliban in Pakistan and Hindu fundamentalists in India (among others) openly admit their actions against Christian populations.
Yet the silence from the world community is deafening. Occasionally the U.S. State Department will issue some toothless protest after a particularly egregious event, but nothing ever seems to change. The world community seems to notice little, and to care even less; many "moderates" in Asian and African countries seem cowed by the violence.
Western countries seem to have a double standard when it comes to the rights of religious groups around the world, especially religious minorities. Just look at the widespread indignation that occurred when a lunatic pastor and his congregation in Florida threatened to burn a copy of the Qur'an. The media was (rightly) filled with denunciations. But a similar desecration of a Christian work or holy symbol is usually met with little or no response.
The world, especially the West, has an exquisite sensibility to the rights of non-Christians around the world. But Christians are suffering daily in Africa and Asia. Where is the outrage?
Mark Granquist, St. Paul, is associate professor of church history at Luther Seminary.