When Sectarian Violence Is Genocide

September 2011

Ever wonder why you don’t hear much about Christian persecution around the world these days — at least not from the mega-media outlets? We’ve previously addressed the sad fact that the persecution of Christian minorities in Muslim lands goes underreported (New Oxford Notes “The Silent Spectre of Religious Cleansing,” Apr. 2010; and “Exodus & Bloodbath: Christians in the Middle East,” Dec. 2010). More alarming perhaps is that when Western media outlets do report on such events they rarely acknowledge the fact that Muslims are aggressively persecuting Christians — torching their churches, burning down their shops and houses, and torturing, intimidating, and threatening them. In fact, if you search the news archives on the BBC website using the search term “Christian persecution” you get the following result: “Sorry, there are no results for your search.”

Instead of addressing Christian persecution, sanitized news articles report the unrest to be a kind of sectarian or ethnic violence, as if the two groups — Muslims and minority Christians — were on relatively equal footing, both acting as recidivist aggressors. That might be an honest way to characterize the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland over the past forty years between the Republicans (Catholics) and Loyalists (Protestants). You could even make the case that it’s an accurate characterization of the 1992 Rwandan massacres between the Hutus and the Tutsis. But it is far from a legitimate characterization of the reality of Christian minorities in many places throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East today.

Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries are at grave risk of nothing less than extermination — either by being driven out of their houses and off their land or simply being killed when that seems more convenient. Many minority Christians are living day to day, month to month, in morbid fear not only for their own lives but for the very continued existence of their people. Sounds like genocide, doesn’t it? Or at least “ethnic cleansing,” if there be an honest application of the euphemism. There’s been much legal debate in recent decades over what exactly constitutes “genocide,” but generally speaking it’s understood as the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. What’s happening around the world today would seem to qualify: There’s no getting around the fact that in parts of Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and even Egypt, Christians have been and continue to be the victims of deliberate and systematic destruction.

In no place is this destruction more obvious than in Somalia. In early July, Vatican Radio reported on the situation of beleaguered Catholics living in this predominantly Muslim country. According to the report, over the past twenty-one years all church buildings have been destroyed. Only about a hundred Somali Catholics remain in the country, and they’re dispersed across thousands of miles and prohibited from gathering together. The last bishop of Somalia was murdered in his cathedral in Mogadishu in 1989.


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New Oxford Notes: September 2011

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