David Calling

Must Middle Eastern Christians Keep Turning the Other Cheek?

Christianity is under attack throughout the Muslim world. Iraq and Egypt still have sizable Christian communities but hundreds of thousands of Christians from both countries have fled abroad. Since Lebanon came under the thumb of Hezbollah, the Shiite terrorists sponsored by Iran, the Christian community there has just about halved. Anecdotal evidence of persecution piles up. Christians old and young in Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Nigeria, and West Africa are accused of disrespecting some aspect of Islam, and are lucky to escape with their lives. Two nuns have been seized in Syria and it is impossible to find out their fates. A bishop has been murdered in Turkey. Churches and sacred monuments of various Christian denominations in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan have been vandalized, sometimes burnt out. The one and only Middle East country where the Christian population has grown in numbers is Israel.

Nobody much seems to care. The accepted attitude is evidently that Christians must expect persecution and make what they can of it instead of defending themselves. The Christian injunction to turn the other cheek is really the antithesis of the moral guidelines in the Koran. Occasionally a pope or an archbishop in Europe remonstrates, only to be overwhelmed with such shrieks of “Islamophobia” that he retracts and apologizes. There is one exception. To judge by his knowledge and probably his name, Raymond Ibrahim is a Christian from the Middle East. Every month, he puts out a catalogue of the crimes Muslims have committed everywhere in the name of their faith against Christian persons and property. He pleads for jihad to be recognized for what it is, and for taking measures of defense.

Aid to the Church in Need is a Catholic charity that has taken the unusual step of putting out a report on Christians as “the world’s most persecuted minority.” Even more unusual, they have got Prince Charles to add a statement in support. One sentence is, “It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is under such threat in the Middle East.” To be sure, he covers himself from the inevitable accusations of “Islamophobia” by saying that people of all faiths have to get together to respect faiths other than their own.  

A day will come when he becomes a constitutional monarch, therefore constrained from giving any opinion with political repercussions like this. Then he has hitherto always gone out of his way to flatter Islam. So much so, that some years ago two American academics published an article in the scholarly journal Middle East Quarterly under the title, “Prince Charles of Arabia.” Their case rested in part on the regular visits that he was paying to an imam in Konya, in Turkey.  In this new statement, however, he proclaims himself a believing Christian, and raises the issue of Britain’s “future as a free society.” The phrase is veiled with goodwill abstractions about faith, but surely it goes down the Raymond Ibrahim path with the implication that nobody can be expected to turn the other cheek forever.

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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