A powerful leader in The Times this morning concluded(£):
A Vatican official speaks of 100,000 Christians being martyred every year, more, surely, than at any time in history. We cannot be spectators at this carnage.
The Times has been highlighting the case of Meriam Ibrahim, sentenced by the Sudanese Government to hang because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. The regime of President Omar al-Bashir has denied food aid to Christians unless they convert to Islam.
It is difficult to imagine that western leaders would be so awkward about challenging religious persecution on such a massive scale if it was directed at any other religious group.
This complicity is nothing new, of course. The significant point about Alastair Campbell’s abrupt “We don’t do God” interjection was that Tony Blair cravenly deferred to the lout.
A recent editorial(£) in The Spectator wondered how much had changed. Since the 276 girls were kidnapped from a school in northern Nigeria the statements from Mark Simmonds, the minister for Africa, talked in general terms about the particular problems for women and girls in areas of conflict.
Mr Simmonds reflected:
“Young children are being denied universal freedoms such as an education.”
However as The Spectator added:
“That may be true for many girls in Africa, but not ones abducted from a school. What Mr Simmonds failed to say is that the girls were almost all Christian, kidnapped by Islamists who threatened to sell them into sexual slavery.
“Why can’t our government make that point? It is not as if there were any doubt over the matter. Boko Haram is not shy about its objectives. It has been waging war against Christians in Nigeria for years. On Christmas Day 2011 it killed at least 50 and injured hundreds more in a series of attacks on churches. The toll would have been far higher if two bombs had not been successfully defused. The following May, a spokesman for the terrorists said: ‘We will create so much effort to have an Islamic state that Christians will not be able to stay.’ This is in Nigeria, the richest country in Africa.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide highlights persecution of Christians in countries such as Laos, Eritrea, North Korea and Cuba. It has chronicled repression of Christianity in China – despite which the number of Christians in that country has grown at an astonishing rate.
Overseas Aid should not be granted to any country which discrimiates against Christians. But just as important is for western leaders to make rousing condemnation of such regimes – not just reluctant and half hearted statements after pressure from the media. Fraser Nelson has proposed that the British Government should publish an annual report on religious freedom.
A while ago Tim Montgomerie wrote about how the Canadian Government has made this issue a diplomatic priority – while the British Government has not been “terribly helpful.” It is time that the Foreign Secretary William Hague made very clear to his officiails that from now on this will change.
It is not just politicians who are to blame. Many of the rest of us have been too reticient about the issue of international Christian persecution – not least in the media. This climate would now appear to be changing. The Times and The Spectator have helped to break the taboo. That is welcome but there is a lot of catching up to do.