October 1, 2013
September 22, dozens of Christian worshipers were killed at a church in
Pakistan. Many more were wounded. The assailants were jihadist suicide bombers.
This was not the first attack on the small Christian community in Pakistan.
repeated deadly assaults have targeted Coptic Christian churches.Some members of this ancient faith group,
convinced they have no future in the Arab world’s most populous nation, have
the Chaldean Christian population has dwindled in recent years. Persecution at
the hands of Islamist groups has been a key factor driving people out.
periodic attacks by radical Muslim groups on Christian worshipers and their
churches have brought widespread death and destruction.
the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate has had to face one bureaucratic
roadblock after another.
Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, many Greek Orthodox churches have been
destroyed or otherwise desecrated since the Turkish army first invaded in 1974.
Sudan, until the break-up of the country in 2011 that brought the nation of
South Sudan into existence, millions of Christians in the south were targeted
by the Muslim north, resulting in an unimaginably high death toll.
This is an
incomplete list, but it should be more than enough to alarm the world, and
especially, I would have thought, the Christian world. But, alas, with a few
notable exceptions, there has been silence.
As a Jew, I
find this silence unfathomable.
know quite well that the sin of silence is not a solution to acts of
applies not only to the obvious example of the Holocaust, but also to the
postwar plight of Jews in several Muslim-majority countries.
once nearly a million Jews in these lands, but today there are fewer than
communities from Iraq to Libya, from Egypt to Yemen, were driven out, while
those in Turkey and Iran are but a shadow of their former selves.
As this was
taking place, the world was largely indifferent.
never met in emergency session. The media barely devoted any attention.
Diplomats in Brussels and elsewhere hardly gave it a second thought. And, by
the way, the churches were not heard from, either.
surviving Jews left North Africa and the Muslim Middle East, the world averted
its eyes. But now the Jews aren’t available for their “convenient” role as
scapegoats, so the dubious honor falls to the Christians (and, in Iran, to the
Baha’i). Could it be possible that the world once again remains asleep in the
face of murderous attacks, widespread fear, and declining numbers?
I asked a
well-placed Christian prelate why the muted reaction, why the failure to take
to the streets, demand action of Western governments, and demonstrate
solidarity with co-religionists.
that targeted Christian communities might face still more danger if voices are
raised. But what has been achieved by yielding to intimidation, except for
still more attacks?
noted that some Christians in the West didn’t identify with Christians of
different sects, such as Copts, Chaldeans, or Greek Orthodox. But this is
hardly a justification. Is righteous anger only to be unleashed if “membership
criteria” are met?
he felt the most important thing Western societies could to was to set an
example for the Islamic world by treating minority communities, particularly
Yes, it is
to the credit of democratic nations that they judge themselves by how they
respect minorities. When we fall short, we know we must improve.
former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after meeting a delegation of Arab
ambassadors who complained about the treatment of Muslims in France, France
must do better, but France also expects “reciprocity.”
words, it is the height of hypocrisy for Arab leaders to criticize Western
countries for perceived injustices, while perpetrating those very injustices –
and more – in their own lands. If a mosque can be built in Paris, surely a
church should not be banned in Riyadh.
more attacks like the one in Pakistan, how many more dead worshipers, how many
more destroyed churches, and how many more families need to flee before the
world finds its voice, summons its moral outrage, demands more than fleeting
statements of anguish by officials, and stands with those Christian communities
David Harris is the executive
director of the American Jewish Committee (www.ajc.org).