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15

The Persecuted Church

On January 21st, I attended a terrific conference in Framingham, MA concerning “The Persecuted Church.” When I say terrific, I mean the full, riveting, appalling sense of the word. Sponsored by CAMERA, the speakers ranged from young participants of the “Arab Spring” protests to sage professors to political operatives. The event culminated in a keynote address by Dr. Walid Phares (The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East). Each speaker hammered home two distressing points:  first, Christians are routinely harassed, intimidated and slaughtered across the Middle East and deep into the African continent; second, Christians elsewhere are doing very little to help them.

Most riveting were the firsthand accounts of two young women, Juliana Taimoorazy, the Executive Director of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, and Cynthia Farahat, an Egyptian political activist and writer. They testified to daily harassment and oppression by police and radical Muslims. They spoke bravely about the constant fear and the innumerable political obstacles to living freely in societies predominated by Islam.

One of the most poignant comments was made by Ms. Farahat, who explained that she was forced to live as a fourth-class citizen in Egypt. (Christian women rank behind Muslim males, Muslim females, and Christian males in such objectively stratified cultures. Surely, that reality is a far-cry from the constant grumbling about “patriarchal values in our own society, where females outnumber males in most post-graduate studies.)

As the conference progressed, it became evident that the prevailing narrative in our mainstream press and academia deliberately misrepresents the situation for these people. History textbooks consistently fail to teach children about the scope of the early Church, which spread from Jerusalem across many continents with amazing rapidity. All Christians should know that there were many tribes and nations who embraced the Gospel who have since fallen under the sway of Islam, such as the Egyptians, the Persians, the Arabs, the Assyrians, and the Berbers. Many of these peoples are mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, and their ranks only grew over the centuries. By the time the Arab Muslim invaders spread through Asia Minor, North Africa, Mesopotamia, and Europe, they were attacking ancient centers of Christianity.

The media builds on academia’s myopia in refusing to explain the nature of the “sectarian strife” currently found in the region. The media narrative typically goes something like this: Islam is native to North Africa, Asia Minor, and the Middle East; Muslims have always and will always control this territory; unnamed minorities are causing unrest and difficulties for an old and venerable civilization.

Only when one looks at the local [often “subversive”] accounts does one discover that Christians are being dispossessed or killed, Islamicists are waging the usual jihad, and those who try to tell the truth are harassed or silenced.  (For a sobering one-month assessment of the details of this “sectarian strife,” mostly ignored by the media, go here.)

Surely, even the previous paragraph would be considered “hate speech” on any college campus and in many media outlets. Even the human rights activists so absorbed in Palestinian minutiae ignore the creeping genocide beyond that one place, and even western feminists curiously delight in the very “multicultural” display that marginalizes women and makes a mockery of their “right to choose.”

The most valuable information presented to those who wonder how to respond to the growing Muslim presence in the west was offered Raymond Ibrahim, who spoke of the constant statistical realities that governed Islamic political behavior over the centuries. Reflecting on the two stages of Muhammed’s life—the Meccan (peaceful) period, when his followers were in the minority and so peaceful; and the Medinan (aggressive) period, when growing numbers allowed them to rule through force—the present situation fits the standard historical model. Currently, radical Muslims are hampered by their faith’s relatively small presence in the west. However, this is quickly changing. Soon, they might transition from the mentality of Mecca to the mentality of Medina.

The question was asked whether the Muslims around us are actually as peaceful in their pursuit of their faith as they say, or whether they are deliberately part of a duplicitous scheme. Mr. Ibrahim answered that the sincerity of individual Muslims does not matter. What matters are the larger designs of the imams, whose task it is to gain converts, spread the umma, and thereby expand the dar al-Islam.

Sadly, in all of these presentations I found two important elements missing which cannot be overlooked.

Firstly, although Christendom spread widely in the earliest centuries, it was highly heterogeneous, often to the point of fracture. The early Christians fought constantly—not only over doctrinal matters, but also over primacy and territory. This reality remains scandalous to this day. (To this end, we have just finished observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which recognizes as tragic the broken state of the Mystical Body of Christ.)

Secondly, and this point is more egregious, there was no call to prayer. The activists lamented the lack of American support for their protests, which are without a doubt enormously courageous. The scholars called for a better vetting of textbooks and for students to publish papers so that the truth is more widely known. The political advisors stressed the need for stronger agitation in order to make our politicians aware of the real nature of the conflict.

All of these are valuable and practical steps, but they ignore the wider reality that this isn’t merely a matter of “human rights,” but part of the larger Christian narrative: “They will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name” (Matthew 24:9). Prayer is needed now as much as ever, not only because the lack of it reveals how much sloth has prevailed, countering God’s call to hold one another up amidst our sufferings, but also because our antipathy towards their persecution within the Mystical Body belies ignorance about how we will overcome our own inevitable challenges. Indeed, the Jewish leaders of old knew that they should not proceed without prayer, begging Jeremiah:

“Please grant our petition; pray for us to the LORD, your God, for all this remnant. As you see, only a few of us remain, but once we were many. May the LORD, your God, show us the way we should take and what we should do.”

“Very well!” Jeremiah the prophet answered them: “I will pray to the LORD, your God, as you desire; whatever the LORD answers, I will tell you; I will withhold nothing from you”

And they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not follow all the instructions the LORD, your God, sends us through you. Whether we like it or not, we will obey the command of the LORD, our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us for obeying the command of the LORD, our God” (Jeremiah 42: 2-6).

God has instituted his Church and will protect it as long as her members remain faithful to her revealed creed. This is an opportunity to stand firmly in the faith, no matter how small the remnant becomes. The beleaguered Christians in the Middle East are right to feel betrayed by occidental brethren, for we are abandoning our obligation to stand with those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Secular academies and governing bodies will be of very little help if we fail to make the case for Christ and His redemption, for that truth alone really sets a person free. This is a call to prayer and action, for upon our prayers and actions depend countless lives and the very strength of the Body of Christ.

Mrs. Kineke offers a Christian response to Islam at her blog Morning Star.


Genevieve Kineke is the author of The Authentic Catholic Woman (Servant Books). She blogs at feminine-genius.typepad.com.
  • fishman

    what is there that the average american can do . other then pray ( which we all should)

  • Genevieve Kineke

    I think that we should become familiar with Church history and the general overview of the region and its people. You should keep an eye on your children’s textbooks and show them that there’s more to the story than what’s presented. It’s overwhelming to think of really impacting the classroom (unless it’s a Catholic school) but you can collect information to share with your circle–and finding one stark difference in a given topic will at least show people that those written accounts aren’t always reliable. Listen carefully to what your elected officials say about this problem, and if appropriate, contact them to say that a statement defending beleaguered minorities would be appreciated. And perhaps a chat with your pastor would allow a new parish initiative, whereby an immigrant and/or knowledgeable speaker could come in for an informational session.

    The conference was very good in that way; I just was concerned that all the responses were human and political, to the exclusion of seeking divine aid.

  • Genevieve Kineke

    Oh, and how could I forget? Read the Quran.

  • Philip Primeau

    We should be careful about advocating the reading of the Quran. It is clearly a supernaturally-inspired text, given its hypnotic effect on billions of souls across time and space. The thing is either from heaven or hell. And seeing as how it’s definitely not from heaven . . .

    Watch and weep:

    See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljs71ILQZrU&feature=youtu.be

    • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

      To an educated person formed to think in an orderly way the book normally appears boring, quite illogical like the ramblings of those fringe politicians or sectarians of our own day. But to the ignorant it may have some appeal here and there because it makes sense to them like Mein Kampf or the Protocols of [...] Zion still make sense to some mentally challenged people. A book that denies that reason is what rules the universe as ordered by God and reduces everything, even salvation to the whimsical will of a far away god who plays with us like a trickster with toys should not attract anyone indeed. Yet it does. A sure sign of the thick darkness we must contend with. For a better experience I rather read the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao The Cjing, or the Analects. The simple comparison of those beautiful religious/philosophical texts with the Quran, Mein Kampf, the Communist Manifesto, or the Scientology books will give any reader and idea of their relative value.

      • Mary Kochan

        ‘boring, quite illogical”

        Like a Watchtower. :-)

        • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

          Well… we don’t need to get vicious with them Mooselims

  • Philip Primeau

    You are making a dangerous mistake in underestimating the wicked power of the Quran.

    • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

      Not at all. I recognize the terrible damage that it can do to a feeble, disorganized mind. You are correct. Darkness can rule over darkness but it is impotent against light.

  • Philip Primeau

    Christianity was once well entrenched from North Africa through the Near East and into Asia. Today, those lands, which produced some of the greatest and most devout Christians, are Muslim to the bone. What’s more, the change didn’t take so long. This may be due largely to the sword and the jizya, but what motivates the sword and from whence comes the jizya? The Quran!

    • Mary Kochan

      Carlos is not recommending the Koran as reading for everyone without discrimination, Phil. I think you are correct that it does seduce some minds — that probably has a much to do with cultural factors and other predispositions, as well as age and method of encounter (young Muslim Arabs are made to memeorize it through hours and hours of daily chanting) as it does with some demonic power from the book itself. A well-educated Christian who approaches the reading for research purposes does not have to have a superstitious fear of it, as though a demon will jump out of it and take over his mind. Having said that, you are correct that the teachings of demons and heresies, should not be treated lightly nor broadcast.

      • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

        Thank you for the clarification, Mary. There will always be someone who dabbles in the occult, attracted by the strangeness of those texts. Some are useful. Reading Lao Tse or Confucius is unlikely to hurt anyone. But since the Beatles travels to India in the late 60′s many have fallen into the well. There is a lot of “shock value” to saying “I am a Buddhist” or Muslim, etc. when everyone expects you to be some kind of Christian. Few stop for a moment to realize that Christianity IS an oriental religion just as Judaism also is an oriental religion. So we can be quaint and mysterious too, ha ha. May be we should wear turbans or long red gowns to attract the “seekers” of the strange and mysterious. Anyway, someone from the west who suddenly believes in the Quran is probably predisposed that way but that process of conversion can never be expressed in terms of reason. The abandonment of reason by the Quranic scholars after their brief scientific and philosophical era plunged Islam in the pitiful backward state in which they are now. they can emulate the West and build a nuclear bomb in Pakistan or Iran but they are still cutting women’s noses and they are still scared of crosses. The vikings of old could copy and even improve a Roman vessel but instead of spreading civilization they used them to pillage and rape. Islam and the book shall pass. They are the only enduring heresy of old. There is something to think about. There is a force behind it that allows them to persist but they will eventually pass from the scene of the world. Not for nothing Our Lady is always pictured stepping on a serpent AND a crescent moon.

    • Genevieve Kineke

      Faulty reasoning. Islam is like Christianity in that it took a long time for the scriptures to be codified (although Muslims won’t admit to it). While Islam spread by the sword, I find it impossible to believe that those men (illiterate as they were) were inspired by the Quran. They were inspired by booty and promises of heaven, and led by the example of Mohammed.

      Now that the messages are canonised in the Quran, they explain the mindset of the believers (if you know how to interpret them). Carlos is right that they are illogical ramblings, but I don’t believe they have some sort of demonic power. The establishment of a cult is a little more complex than that (though I’m not saying Old Harry isn’t in the works somewhere). One begins submission to the dark side by reciting the shahadah, not by perusing the Quran.

  • Philip Primeau

    I take Mohammad’s testimony at face value. He claimed to have been visited by an angelic creature. I believe him. Why not?

    “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

    Mohammad simply fell for the deception of an evil angel, who masqueraded as a servant of God while truly forwarding the plans of the evil one, who is ever-bent on disrupting the kingdom.

    It would be most dangerous to write-off Islam as a mere cult, a creation of man. It is clearly the work of fallen angels. Its terribly rapid success, which saw the destruction of countless Christian peoples and kingdoms, strongly suggests supernatural assistance.

    • Genevieve Kineke

      I don’t disagree with what you’ve said, except about “a mere cult.” Cults aren’t trite things, for they dismantle critical thinking skills and the ability to engage in valuable interpersonal relationships — both of which are integral to our humanity. Furthermore, they posit lies as truth and inhibit the free transmission of authentic truth by getting the cult members to fear its very presence. All diabolical.

      What I’m saying about the Quran is that it can be read with prudence, for I don’t believe it’s magical or able to cause a deliberate reader to be “possessed” in some way. Keep the Holy Water nearby if you like, make the Sign of the Cross frequently, and simply read the lies therein.

      How can one answer a questioning Muslim if we aren’t familiar with their belief structure? Fr Botros Zakaria is certainly eminently familiar with the book and quotes it liberally as he brings hundreds of converts to Christianity each month.

      http://fatherzakaria.net/