By Peter Moore

“Name the second wife of Mohammed,” said the Somali terrorist as he pointed his AK-47 rifle at a terrified shopper last September 11. The shopper was a Christian and was unable to name Mohammed’s second wife. He was shot dead on the spot.

 

Thus began a rampage at Nairobi’s upscale Westgate Shopping Mall. It lasted from September 21-25 of last year. When it was over, some 67 people lay dead, including many women and children. At least 150 or more were injured. A city was traumatized by the slaughter.

As with similar attacks, it was those who could prove that they were Muslim who were permitted to leave. They either answered the question above, or recited one of Islam’s daily prayers. This makes it patently clear that this terrorist attack, like so many others, had religious overtones, even though Somalia’s al-Shabab jihadist group that claimed responsibility for the attack said it was in retaliation for the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia.

What is becoming more and more obvious is that to be a Christian in many parts of the world is to put your life in jeopardy. At no time in history has it been truer that Christians are the #1 targeted group for religious persecution. The Pew Center is on record as saying that Christians are harassed in no fewer than 139 countries.

Moreover, as my friend Dr. Paul Marshall of the Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, says, it is not only overt Christian profession that puts one in danger, it is simply being classified as “Christian” in many of these countries.

Of course, to be fair, Christians are not the only religious minority that is in danger. Muslims, Hindus, Ba’hais and other groups are objects of persecution, too. But their danger is in significantly fewer numbers. As Angela Merkel of Germany recently put it: “Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today.”

All over the world, minority Christian communities have become chosen scapegoats in radical Islamic and remnant communist regimes. They are regularly demonized and caricatured through populist campaigns of hate and terror.

Jewish thinker Michael Horowitz, in the introduction to Marshall’s book Their Blood Cries Out writes this: “The silence and indifference of Western elites to the beatings, looting, torture, jailing, enslavement, murder and even crucifixion of increasingly vulnerable Christian communities … engages my every bone and instinct as a Jew.”

But why do you and I not hear more about it in the news? Again Horowitz writes: “It is ignorance and unconscious class bias, not malevolence, that largely explains the media’s failure to report the story of today’s mounting anti-Christian persecutions.” I would add political correctness to this list because it seems less biased to speak of “ethnic violence” than “religious persecution.”

To put feet on this global problem, David Alton, Lord Alton of Liverpool, recently chronicled a small sample of the suffering of Christians. He gave this in a speech in the House of Lords.

In Sudan, 2 million mainly Christian people have been killed over the past decade.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram beheaded two Christian pastors and openly says that their goal is to eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country.

In Iraq, 58 Christians were killed during evening mass in a Syrian Catholic Church.

In North Korea, believers caught in illegal services are routinely sent to camps and prisons where they are kept in horrific conditions, and where torture is common.

In Pakistan, a country that receives billions in aid from the U.S., mobs in Lahore torched 200 homes and churches, and a suicide bomb at All Saints Anglican Church killed 75 Christians.

In Syria, the entire Christian population in the city of Homs, some 50,000 – 60,000, have fled for safety. There may be as few as 1,000 Christians left in the whole city. In Egypt, where Christians number about 10 percent of the population, last August 41 churches were razed in a matter of hours by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and 150 other Christian buildings attacked at the same time.

These illustrate in a very small way what is happening on a much greater scale the world over. When I met the Coptic archbishop of Cairo in 2011, he calmly said: “Our witness is sealed in blood.”

Perhaps these few examples will inspire us as we pray, once a month, here at St. Michael’s for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are undergoing some of the most systematic and painful persecution imaginable. Remember, these people are just a plane ride away. They need our prayers, so that we can stand with them — and we need their prayers, lest we become complacent and indifferent to the suffering of others.

“God … comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:4)

Peter Moore, D.D. is the president emeritus of Trinity School for Ministry outside of Pittsburgh. Currently he is an associate at St. Michael’s Church, Charleston. He is the author of four books and writes frequently for the Mercury. He lives with his wife Sandra in Mount Pleasant. His website is: www.petercmoore.com.

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