This blog will begin with some honourable exceptions in the matter of Western silence on the deliberate persecution and removal from their religious and native homeland of Christians through murder and intimidation. Our first exception to an otherwise failed political response is Fiona Bruce MP, who secured a Westminster Hall debate on the persecution of Christians and rightly drew an analogy with the Nazi mass extermination of Jews in the last century.
Of course it is right that we should oppose persecution of all peoples, whatever their faith or race. It was right that the West intervened to protect Bosnian Muslims, even if a consequence of Bosnian Serb defeat was relief not just for decent Bosnians but also a minority who went on to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is right that the West is bringing pressure to bear on President Assad, when he has allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people as well as using conventional weapons to slaughter his fellow citizens. It is right to do that, even though many persecuted Christians depend on President Assad’s survival to protect them from the Al Qaeda-inspired rebels who benefit from Western policy.
It is not right however to ignore the persecution of those who are closest to us culturally and spiritually. Surely when Christians are persecuted in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, there is a special onus on the inheritors of Christendom to speak out and take action? Strangely it seems that the Western media is sadly lacking in interest in the persecution of a people whom HRH Prince Charles (our second exception to the general political failure) has described as “our brothers and sisters in Christ”.
When I refer to us as the inheritors of Christendom I mean all of us, whether or not we are faithful or practising Christians. Even if we are not, we have inherited a culture and a history shaped by Christian faith. We have a duty to uphold that culture, whatever our personal beliefs. We cannot choose to have been born in a Caliphate or a Buddhist state, whether we are believers or not we have been born into and shaped by a Christian culture. The Western atheist owes his values to the same inheritance as the Coptic Christians. I believe that this not only behoves us to uphold our own values and customs, but to understand that special link it gives us with Christians in other parts of the world and particularly in the Middle East, where Christ lived, walked and taught.
It is worth quoting His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, bearing in mind how much the Prince has done to reach out to Muslims in our own country:
“I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by various Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East. It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants. Christianity was literally born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Prince Charles by dint of his role and upbringing is more aware of our cultural roots than those who run the twenty-four hour rolling media or the politicians more worried about climbing the greasy pole than standing up for principles.
Why should it be though that the media ignores this or pays it scant attention and politicians see no benefit in speaking out (apart from notable exceptions including Fiona Bruce MP and other MPs such as David Simpson MP (DUP)? Perhaps part of the explanation can be revealed by another honourable exception: Baroness Warsi. The Baroness has spoken out about this issue and yet this begs the question as to why someone of Islamic faith of an immigrant family has spoken out more vocally than all those politicians whose roots are Christian and European?
I think the excuse our leaders would give is that for a White, ostensibly Christian Western politician to condemn the persecution of Christians would play into the hands of Islamists who for propaganda purposes would then be able to falsely portray Middle Eastern Christians as Western stooges. One is reminded of President Obama’s behaviour over the abortive Green revolution in Iran. Even when the protesters pleaded for American support he remained ambivalent. The Green Revolution failed.
This attitude seems to be based on shame about and alienation from our own values and a misunderstanding that somehow speaking for the cause of what is Right and Just strengthens the arm of the wicked. Speaking truth to power earns your cause credit not discredit and inspires rather than undermines. Silence on the other hand can look like indifference or even tacit acceptance of the rightness of the oppressor’s action. We know where the attitude of asking "What is truth?" leads.
It is the view of this blogger that the attitude Western leaders are portraying is not pragmatic politics but an exhibition of politically-correct guilt and alienation about our own values. An aggressive secularisation and attack on our traditional values has left us with pusillanimous politicians who no longer speak with conviction or even know what convictions they should hold. Rather than talk of our Christian values as Sir Winston Churchill did, politicians can only speak in value-neutral language. To speak passionately about the persecution of Christians would not be value-neutral precisely because we have that special link with them. So in our perverse modern world the very reason for speaking out becomes a reason not to speak out.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, another important and honourable exception, has referred to Christians murdered by suicide bombers in Pakistan as martyrs – a powerful way of highlighting how distorted the extreme Islamist view of martyrdom is and what a cruel parody of true martyrdom has developed in Islamist doctrine, as well as expressing the much-needed sympathy for Pakistani Christians.
This blog recently touched on the Church of England’s embarrassment over the existence of the Devil. Well, we live in a world where those who have inherited the legacy and duties of Christendom have monumentally failed to speak for and act for their spiritual and cultural brethren. Not only have they failed, but they exist in a world where they are so alienated from the values of their culture that they are impotent to speak out precisely because of our special link with other Christians who are being murdered every day. Surely that disabling impotence must be the work of the Devil in our culture and politics.
For those frustrated about our politicians' failure to act and wish to do something in however small a way for our spiritual brethren can I recommend the Barnabus Fund? Their website can be found here and is self-explanatory: