BLOG 291 February 22, 2016
Anyone who has closely followed the upheaval in the Middle East has discovered that the fundamental conflict is between Muslim Sunnis and Shiites, not countries. Americans struggle to understand how two similar religious groups can kill each other over their differences. The US populace tends to view the situation as if Southern Baptists were shooting Methodists because they do not dunk people in baptism. Americans simply don’t have a paradigm for murder, destruction of ancient artifacts, and cutting off heads because viewpoints differ.
Now let’s put one more iron in the fire. Christophobia: Christians murdered for their faith while living in the Muslim world.
On October 9, 2011, 24 Coptic Christians were killed in Cairo in clashes with the Egyptian Army. On March 8, 2011, during a large Christian demonstration in a Cairo slum, 13 people were killed and 140 injured. Terrorist attacks on Christians in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia increased 309% from 2003 to 2010. Such is a staggering number!
Churches have been burned and parishioners imprisoned. In some countries, nothing less that the fate of Christianity is at stake. For some unexplained reason, the US government does not seem to notice or protest.
Traditionally, wars have been categorized in one of three ways: the just war, the unjust war, the religious war. The worst and most brutal conflict is religious warfare. For example, the Crusades pitted Christians against Muslims in one of the bloodiest conflicts in Middle Eastern history. Even to this hour, the name Crusader is hated in the Middle East.
Terrorist groups like Boko Haram killed more than 510 people while burning down or destroying more than 350 churches in 10 northern states. Shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) they used guns, gasoline bombs, and machetes on unsuspecting citizens.
Today there are virtually no Christians left in Iraq. More than 900 Assyrian Iraqi Christians were killed by terrorist violence. Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholic have fled from major Christian sites like Bethlehem because of assaults. The Middle East is quickly emptying of a significant Christian presence due to the religious wars. Most of the violence is not centrally planned and comes from spontaneous expressions of anti-Christian animosity that extend back to the period of Colonialism.
The list goes on and on.
In this season of Lent when the Christian community ponders the Crucifixion, the Christian world might remember that during the first 300 years of their existence, Christians were pacifists and refused to participate in killing. A standard was set that ultimately impacted the Roman Empire and finally brought an end to the killings in the Coliseum. A new standard with a higher global ethic must be set again.
The world must wake up to the fact that its population will inevitably have different opinions and beliefs and it is still possible to be hold varying viewpoints without resulting animosity.
We can differ without destruction.