“The persecution of Christians in parts of the world is at near ‘genocide’ levels, according to a report ordered by (British) Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt” the BBC reported on May 3. The story appeared soon after the horrific attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka. Christians, it said, were the most persecuted religious group in the world. Mr. Hunt – a practicing Anglican – said he felt that political correctness had played a significant part in the issue not being confronted. The report went on to state that persecution of Christians has taken on genocidal proportions in the Middle East. The longest surviving family of Christian believers anywhere, is at the risk of being wiped out. Even Prince Charles expressed his deep concern about this tragic state of affairs, saying that church leaders are not doing enough.
I recall personally meeting a young Syrian Christian in Grand Rapids, telling me proudly – a few years before the brutal civil war erupted in his country in 2011 – that Christians have it so well in Syria (as opposed to some other ME countries). He said his hometown Aleppo was a Christian city. That his opinion of Syria as a sanctuary for Christians was not taken out of thin air was supported by a story in Canada’s McLean’s magazine published in January 2006 under the title “Born Again in Syria”. In fact Syria was the place where Iraqi Christians fled to, when they became fair game for Islamist militants during and after the Iraq War.
The startling figures
It was estimated that there were 3 million Christians in Syria as recently as 30 years ago. Today there are a few hundred thousand left. In Iraq, the figures have fallen from 1.5 million before the Iraq War to less than 120 000 today. A Middle Eastern Christian leader, Rev. Victor Atallah, warned Christian churches in the West in the build-up to the Iraq War, that this was exactly what was going to happen. But we would not listen. However, the entire evangelical community stood firmly behind its evangelical and Anglican statesmen, Pres. George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, trusting that they knew best. Whoever dared to raise concerns then, was quickly put in his place. I knew that from personal experience as a newcomer to the North American scene.
On May 7 this year, Barbara Kay of the National Post here in Canada wrote: “Our Politicians may not care, but Christians are under siege across the world.” She mentioned an Italian study calculating that a Christian is killed somewhere in the world once every 6 minutes and that the trend is accelerating. She also mentioned a Pew Research report stating that Christians are being targeted in 144 countries of the world. I am so thankful for her clarion call. And yet she fails to see the link between the “mass exodus” of Christians from the Middle East to her own paper’s open support for the Iraq War and for the Syrian opposition in that conflict. In fact, when The National Post asked its readers what needed to be done about the ongoing Syrian conflict back in 2015, the response of yours truly was the only one among a few dozen published, calling for an end to our Western support for the Jihadi onslaught that was wiping out Christians and churches alike. Back then everything and anything that could get rid of President Assad was considered justified by our media.
It is due to our political correctness in the West that Christians are being wiped off the map, says Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. And, as another British paper reported, it is also because our Western governments (including Mr. Hunts’) don’t want to jeopardize trade deals and political relations with countries such as China, India, and Saudi Arabia. Has Pres. Trump ever raised the issue with Xi Jiping, Narendra Modi or Mohammad Bin Salman? You wonder… Or are we only concerned about selling weapons, protecting our crude oil sources and winning trade wars?
But, it is about the issue of political correctness that I would like to acknowledge with tears, to my brothers and sisters under the cross: “Mea culpa! I am guilty too!” And the church community I have served for so long is guilty too. We have betrayed you. We have betrayed you for all kinds of reasons: (1) because we were simply ignorant of your very existence for so long, being so preoccupied with ourselves; (2) because you were not protestant or evangelical enough to qualify for our compassion; (3) because we for so long blindly believed our western media’s propaganda about global politics; and (4) because above all we were cowards! We were afraid to stick out our necks. Like Peter warming his hands by the fire, we said: “No, we swear we don’t know that Man!” And so you bore His cross alone. But we know the time for hiding is over. Two mighty oceans will not protect us here in North America from the wrath of the fiery red dragon much longer.
How dare I say this? Let me speak for myself and explain how I have cowered to political correctness. One of my former churches was involved in meetings with Muslims for many years in Toronto. At these meetings, representatives from both the Muslim and Christian side would receive an opportunity to speak about their respective faiths to a mixed audience of around 60 before having a meal together. The imams, I soon learned, had no scruples stating their well-known views about Christianity, such as that St. Paul corrupted the original Gospel, that God had no Son, or that Jesus did not die for our sins.
But we were told, by our own leaders, not to ask any sensitive questions to them about their religious convictions. That was taboo. We simply had to stick to our own story. So once I dared to ask – respectfully and humbly – why it is that there was so much violence all around the Muslim world, compared to the Christian world. Did perhaps the lives and examples of our respective progenitors – Jesus and Mohammed – have anything to do with this? Since I got quite a rowdy response from my Muslim friends (which did not bother me in the least) I was asked by “our side” rather not to raise such sensitive issues again. I sheepishly obliged, not because I feared the Muslims, but my fellow Christians!
Asia Bibi betrayed by us
Sometime later, in discussing these meetings at our church, a couple of us wondered if we could ask our Pakistani Muslim friends what they thought of the sad case of Christian woman Asia Bibi in Pakistan, who was on death row for ridiculous charges of blasphemy. Could we ask them if they were willing to speak up for the Christian minority in their home country, that is subject to so much persecution? Again, we were told: “Rather not! We do not want to damage relationships.” It was incidentally for the very same reason that the British Government recently refused asylum to the same poor woman. The British were afraid to anger its Muslim population! Thank God Canada did open its arms for her.
Back in 2015 things were not looking good as opposition forces in Syria were closing in on Damascus. The secular Syrian dictatorship – and with it every single Christian – was about to go under, and the black flag of Isis to go up over Damascus. And still, our media supported the opposition, with Western Christians all over hardly asking a question. But then, mercifully the Russians entered the fray. I thanked God and knew why the Russians did it: (1) to prevent another Western regime-change experiment ending in a failed state; (2) to defeat the dangerous Islamist caliphate emerging a mere 7 hours from its own southern border; but (3) above all to protect its fellow Orthodox believers (and many other Christians with them) in that beleaguered country. Putin stated this objective openly, that he wanted to save Christians from extinction there. Bear in mind, Orthodoxy has sacrificed more martyrs for Christianity through the ages, than any other tradition of Christianity, according to Patrick Johnstone of Operation World.
A year later – in 2016 – the Jihadis’ were driven out of eastern Aleppo. The once buoyant Christian city, mentioned by my Syrian friend in Grand Rapids, now looked like a ghost town. But the Russian and the Syrian Arab Army had at least saved the city! So that Sunday I asked my elders if we could thank God in prayer for the liberation of Aleppo. The response I got was kind of mute, except for one elder who asked: “Did you mean the fall of Aleppo?” I got the message. What I ended up doing I can’t remember, only that I kept a low profile on the issue, to my shame. Today everybody knows that church bells are ringing in that ancient city again, thanks to the Russian intervention. Yes, it might be hard for our pride to swallow, but it is incontrovertibly true. Had Putin not intervened, the blag flag would have waved all over the ancient land where St. Paul was once converted and baptized. But far away in Ontario’s Bible belt a pastor had to be careful to express his joy over Aleppo’s liberation too boldly.
For all of this we want to say to our fellow Christians far away: “Please forgive us! We did not betray you only. We betrayed our Lord”. For as Saul of Tarsus learned long ago on his way to the very same Damascus, whoever doesn’t care for the persecuted lambs of the Lamb, doesn’t care for their Shepherd too. But He carries them in his bosom.
Christianity Today and Washington Post
But these are only examples from my own life and cowardice. There are myriads of others. It is the next one that finally compelled me to come out of the closet, once and for all. In the wake of the evil attack on a mosque in Christchurch, Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today wrote an editorial entitled “Repenting of Identity Politics” (April 22, 2019). Like us all, he was shocked and saddened that the mass murderer in New Zealand acted in sympathy with “Christian Europe”. So behind the monster’s evil deed, Galli spotted “identity politics”, something which I will not dispute.
It is however how he applied this issue that got my attention. He mentioned that “versions of Christian Nationalism” can be found in Poland, Brazil, Russia, and the US (failing to mention Hungary and a number of African nations). In other words, if I am not mistaken, longing to have a nation loyal to Christianity, and to protect such a nation, is hereby cast under a long dark shadow. Such nations are by definition suspect, for Galli failed to mention any possibility of seeking to recover a nation’s national Christian values and identity, without resorting to bigotry or racism. Neither does he make any mention of how the liberal secular project – of selling out every single Christian value at breakneck speed – could also have contributed to transforming unstable characters into terrorist monsters. Nor did he for that matter mention which countries represented his ideal. Were they the countries where there is such a massive spiritual vacuum due to its leftist values, that they are ready to succumb to the next available political ideology of tyranny? Is that a nobler political ideal?
A story from the Washington Post in September 2018 put Christianity Today‘s position in clear perspective. The story’s headline went “Why Russia is wooing SA’s white farmers”. By now I won’t explain the severe plight of these (mostly Christian) South African farmers again, since I have done so elsewhere on this blog. All I want is for us to notice the optics here. The world, including the Washington Post, could not care less about these farmers, but one thing it can’t stomach, that they would receive sanctuary in Putin’s Russia! And that because Putin vowed to make his nation a bastion of traditional Christian values, while Western powers abandon the same.
The best that the Post can offer on this issue is that inviting these beleaguered farmers to his country “fits neatly into the identity politics of Russian President Vladimir Putin”. The Post then made this astonishing revelation: “The West may view Putin as a strategic and military adversary. Yet inside Russia, much of his support grows from the idea of Russia as the caretaker for a white (they had to put in there, didn’t they?) Christian, old style order…” Would Putin then have done better, had he called these Christians farmers under siege “Easter worshipers”, leaving them to their fate?
No bigotry at all
From my perspective I can only say: “Bravo, the cat is out of the bag!” The Washington Post, at last, admits which was known by so many for so long. The real reason why the main stream media hated the new Russia and its leader so much is because they want to stand firm for Christian civilization, while the West is abandoning the same. Just listen to the brave Danish lady Iben Thranholm’s excellent talks on YouTube on this topic, and you will get a good idea.
Being zealous for one’s Christian civilization has nothing to do with so-called toxic masculinity, bigotry or racism. I am on my way to Africa to tell my dear brothers and sisters over there, in South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, and Tanzania: “Stand firm in the Lord against the evil forces that want to wipe you out as well, for you are the hope of the entire Christian world.” And for the sake of Christianity Today and Washington Post, I will add: “These folks I am about to visit are not white! They are Christ’s lambs, and that’s what I care for now”.