John Allen is perhaps the best Catholic journalist we have. Measured, reflective, incisive, learned, accurate. A couple days ago he wrote a piece at the National Catholic Reporter on “Politics and the Global War on Christians.” Coming from anyone else, it may sound alarmist (even though it wouldn’t be in fact), but when John Allen speaks about an issue of such gravity, Catholics and others of good will should listen. Excerpts:
Most people, most of the time, are fundamentally decent. Hence if they knew that there’s a minority facing an epidemic of persecution — a staggering total of 150,000 martyrs every year, meaning 17 deaths every hour — there would almost certainly be a groundswell of moral and political outrage. There is such a minority in the world today, and it’s Christianity. The fact that there isn’t yet a broad-based movement to fight anti-Christian persecution suggests something is missing in public understanding.
Allen goes on to list examples of recent Israeli Jewish attacks against Christian holy sites, and continues:
Why haven’t these blatant acts of prejudice become a cause célèbre? I can think of at least three reasons.
First, some Christians may be hesitant to speak out because, in this instance, the prejudice is coming from Jews. Given the long and depressing history of anti-Judaism in Christianity, some Christians may, in their gut, be tempted to feel: “Yeah, this is disgusting, but in a way we’ve got it coming.”
Second, most Christians in the Holy Land are passionately pro-Palestinian, for the obvious reason that many are Palestinians themselves. Some Christians in the West sympathetic to Israel are therefore reluctant to take up their causes, however deserving in themselves, for fear of weakening the Israeli position.
Third, the travails of a handful of Trappist monks in Israel — or Dalit and tribal Christians in India, or Nigerian Christians menaced by the Boko Haram, or the 150,000 new Christian martyrs every year generally — simply have a hard time breaking through the media filter in the West, perhaps especially in the United States, where it’s now all 2012 elections all the time.
All of this, however, amounts to an explanation, not an excuse. If the defense of persecuted Christians is ever to become a transcendent social cause, analogous to the defense of Soviet Jews in the 1970s, or the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, it can’t be selective in its energy.
If the perception is that the West will push back when Muslims harass Christians, but not when Jews do it — or, to take another perceived inconsistency, that the United States will react when Christians are menaced in Iran, but not in China — then the oppressors will rightly conclude that the real concern isn’t defending a vulnerable minority, but scoring political points. […]
One wonders what difference it might make if Christians across the West, both in officialdom and at the grassroots, were to react that swiftly and unequivocally — protesting not just anti-Christian outbreaks in Israel, but wherever they occur.
There are at least 150,000 at-risk Christians on the planet right now who would probably love to find out.