It is very interesting, if not revealing, that within the mainstream media we do not hear the truth or the full details of racism, hatred or prejudice that is within our midst and afflicting our societies. Nor do we hear as to how “multiculturalism” is used as a weapon and a defence by people who accuse others of hatred, racism and prejudice, but commit the same offences on these points towards others.
I have often dreamed that such hateful and hypocritical people were to be taken and confined to living in some isolated canyon so that they could rip shreds out of each other and leave the rest of us in peace. Whether they are Black Panthers, Jihadists, Ku Klux Klan, Zionists, Nazis, Fascists, Communists, Zealots, Freemasons, New World Order advocates, Satanists, Crusaders, Monetarists and so forth, I would relish placing them all together in such a desolate place far from civilisation, because they are enemies of civilisation, misanthropes and unholy blasphemers who bring the reality of Hell into our everyday lives. Their creed of hatred and self-serving is a poison that infects the minds and hearts of people, and inspires more hatred and bitterness amongst more people. To say that this is demonic and evil is to say the least. (Of course I suspect that should such a dream ever be realised, Greenpeace might protest over the pollution of pristine wilderness with such parasites of humanity!)
But dearly beloved readers, we are called to an alternate approach which is immensely different and difficult from this satanic and cowardly life path which seeks to put the value of a person beneath another, or subservient to a system or to money. Yet the mainstream media in many countries which proclaims itself the protector and voice of justice, quite often remains deafeningly silent to such abuses, like the plight of Christians worldwide. It is very interesting to witness the amount of information being leaked from official government agencies, as to the crisis that Christians are confronting worldwide, but is rarely reported in the mainstream media.
The following articles taken from the official magazine subscription Barnabas Aid (November/ December 2012 edition) are a case in point, where the not so mainstream media reports on these verifiable issues. The magazine itself, which I was not aware of, was brought to my attention by a good friend who sincerely asked me as to whether any of these things were reported in Australia’s mass-media. I was ashamed to reply that in our mainstream media coverage, much of these events were glossed over or not given much attention. Instead, more time was given as to who got voted off some reality television programme, an athlete who could not control his drinking and sexual habits and atheistic diatribes as to the ills of religion and Christmas, than to any question of social justice, education or public policy.
Without doubt, against this backdrop of indifference and ignorance cultivated by our mainstream media, we at Mode of Life will continue to publish articles about how people, particularly Christians, suffer at the hands of the cult of hatred. We know, it is a most difficult and trying task, for anyone willing to bear the cross of love for one’s neighbour in a patient and forbearing manner, but it is our vocation and witness to the world in the hope that this evil is rooted out from our souls, society and civilisation. This is not to say we can create a utopian paradise upon earth, but that we should all strive towards a greater goal and vision for humanity, otherwise we will remain doomed to repeat the ills of history.
ISLAMISTS CALL FOR CHRISTIANS TO BE KILLED
EGYPT: Fears for the safety of Christians in Egypt have intensified as President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood begins to assert his authority. Jihadi organisations have distributed leaflets calling on “all brothers and sisters” to “kill or physically attack the enemies of the religion of Allah – the Christians in all of Egypt’s provinces”. A monetary reward was offered for those who obeyed. There have also been calls from Islamists for state monitoring of church finances.
These calls come as President Morsi has gone back on promises of an inclusive administration. On 12 August, he seized full executive and legislative control, limiting the power of his opponents. Morsi has since been removing rivals to his power, installing Islamists in several prominent positions, and silencing media critics by replacing editors of major state-owned newspapers and taking TV channels off the air.
A new report, by an Egyptian Christian human rights activist and a professor from George Washington University, has also found Christian women are more vulnerable since the Arab Spring uprising to kidnap, forced conversion and forced marriage.
CHRISTIANS KILLED AS BOKO HARAM CONTINUES WAR
NIGERIA: In the latest in a continuing series of violent incidents targeting Christians, at least 20 people were killed in a gun attack on a church in Kogi state on 6 August. On the same day, an evangelist was shot dead in Borno state. Although no-one has yet claimed responsibility for these attacks, the Islamist group Boko Haram has previously carried out many violent acts of violence Christians and other targets in their campaign to create an Islamist state in Northern Nigeria. The murdered evangelist, Ali Samari, had been warned previously by Boko Haram militants to leave his property.
Church in Otite, in the Okene region. A group of gunmen stormed an evening service, blocking the exists and opening fire on those trapped inside. Fifteen people died at the scene and five subsequently in hospital, while many were wounded. Kogi state, in the country’s Middle Belt, is more southerly than the locations of most previous Boko Haram attacks. This raises fears that their campaign may soon spread to the predominately Christian South.
Although some Islamic leaders have urged Boko Haram to cease their violent activities, measures by the Nigerian authorities have as yet been unsuccessful in curbing them. The reluntance of the US State Department to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist group has also compounded fears that the attacks will not be effectively counteracted.
Barnabas Fund and Westminster Institute sponsored the recent visit of Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Dikeriehi Okoh, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, to Washington D.C. During this visit he challenged the US policy on Nigeria, which considers that Boko Haram is motivated by poverty and marginalisation rather than by the religious motives that Boko Haram themselves have often declared.
CHRISTIANS CONTINUE TO SUFFER IN SYRIA CONFLICT
SYRIA: The humanitarian crisis facing the large but vulnerable Christian minority in Syria continues, as several predominately Christian areas have come under attack. On 28 August a car bomb targeted a funeral procession in Jaramana, a suburb of Damascus mainly inhabited by Christian and Druze. At least twelve people, five of whom were children, were killed and around 50 were injured in this attack, which Syrian state media has attributed to “terrorists”. Many Iraqi Christian refugees live in Jaramana.
In a particularly sustained and targeted assault, 12,000 people in the predominately Christian town of Rabieh were under a blockade for two weeks. Snipers from anti-government forces shot down anyone who tried to leave, killing three men, and residents suffered from a shortage of food and medical supplies. A predominately Christian area of Aleppo was also hit by heavy fighting in early August, and churches joined forces in a united relief effort.
Christians are particularly at risk during the civil war as the opposition forces, and the militant groups that back them, believe them to be government supporters. Since the conflict began, tens of thousands of Christians in Syria have lost their homes and been driven out of their cities, leaving them without basic supplies. Barnabas Fund is helping displaced Christian families within Syria and in other countries with food, medicine, money for rent and other essentials.
If the conflict leads to an Islamist takeover, the violence against Christians is likely to intensify. Many believe that they have no alternative but to flee their homeland.
FRAMING OF CHRISTIAN GIRL FOR BLASPHEMY HIGHLIGHTS WIDESPREAD PERSECUTION
PAKISTAN: In an incident that graphically highlights the plight of the beleaguered Christian minority in Pakistan, Rimsha Masih, a young Christian girl with Down’s Syndrome, was falsely accused of blasphemy in August. Rimsha whose age is estimated to be around 14, spent three weeks in a maximum-security jail before she was bailed on 7 September.
Rimsha, from Maherabad village, Islamabad, was originally accused on 16 August of burning pages of a copy of Noorani Quaida, a booklet used for learning the basics of the Quran. After details of the accusation were broadcast over the loudspeakers of the local mosque, Rimsha, her family and other Christians in the area were subjected to brutal violence; they were beaten and their houses were torched.
Most disturbingly, the imam of the local mosque, Qari Khalid Jadoon Chistti, even called for Rimsha to be publicly burned. Hundreds of Christians were forced to flee the area, as they were unable to stay in their homes or buy groceries owing to the vitriolic Muslim reaction to the case. Barnabas Fund is helping them with their practical needs.
In a dramatic twist, however, the assistant imam and two other witnesses later came forward and alleged that Chistti had planted the burnt pages in the ashes found with Rimsha. Chistti has since been arrested and was charged with blasphemy himself.
Several Muslim groups in Pakistan have come out in support of Rimsha, in an unprecedented display of solidarity. She is also the first person to be given bail for blasphemy in Pakistan, but this may be because she is a minor. Rimsha’s treatment has attracted international condemnation.
This case comes as Aasia Bibi, who was falsely accused of making derogatory remarks about Muhammad in 2009, is still in a Pakistani prison as she awaits her appeal against a death sentence. Aasia is able to see her family only on rare occasions. Two Pakistani politicians, who were prominent critics of the “blasphemy law” under which both Aasia Bibi and Rimsha Masih are charged, were assassinated last year.
Christians and other minorities are very vulnerable to being accused under the law, which demands the death penalty for anyone who is found guilty of “defiling the name of Muhammad” and life imprisonment for desecrating the Quran. The laws are often misused, fuelled by prejudice against Christians and other non-Muslims. Violent attacks following such accusations are common, and are part of a rising tide of Islamic extremism that has fuelled many incidents of unprovoked violence against non-Muslims in recent years.
Furthermore, a recent report by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) shows a significant increase in the amount of “hate material” targeted at Christians and other religious minorities. Drawing a link to the Rimsha Masih case, the NCJP’s Peter Jacob said that such material must be eliminated from textbooks, otherwise similar incidents would continue to happen.
Vulnerability under the “blasphemy law” is only one part of the wider climate of persecution and discrimination endured by Christians in Pakistan. Another serious challenge is the kidnap, forced marriage and forced conversion of Christian women and girls. An estimated 700 Pakistani Christian girls are kidnapped annually and forcibly married to their Muslim captors. The police often do little to protect Christians, whether from violent attacks, sexual assault or forced marriage, and few of those responsible are brought to justice.
While the “blasphemy law” and the attacks on women and girls are the two issues that cause the greatest fear and distress, Pakistani Christians also face frequent discrimination in education and in the workplace. They are often from the lowest economic strata of society, and families can remain trapped in poverty because their members are denied employment opportunities. Christian young people face great pressures at school and – for the few who can go on to further study – also at university. This can include being failed in their exams, enduring strong pressure to convert to Islam, and occasionally even violence. Christians can find that employers refuse to hire them because of their faith, and that even when they are given a job they are paid less than a Muslim doing the same job or denied promotion.
Political representation for Christians is also a major problem. Separate electorates were established for non-Muslim minorities in 1979, which diminished their political participation, and although these were later abolished, the growing influence of Islamist groups has ensured that Christians remain marginalised. During emergencies in Pakistan, such as the severe flooding in 2010-2011, discrimination can mean that Christians even miss out in the distribution of aid.