Alistair Thompson was the Conservative candidate for West Bromwich East at the last general election. He also runs Media Intelligence Partners with business partner Nick Wood, the former press secretary to Conservative leaders William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith.
Last weekend saw another massacre of Egypt’s Coptic Christians. This time, the number of those killed was relatively small – just three including an eight-year-old girl. Their crime? Attending a Christian wedding at one of the country’s many Coptic Churches.
Perhaps even more depressing than the assault – and I do not mean to underplay it – is that such attacks occur with such regularity that the mainstream media are no longer report them. Even the news-gathering leviathan the BBC reduced this tragedy to online coverage. This weariness with reporting such events – after all, they are no longer seen as news by the liberal establishment – underlines, at best, a nervousness in the West to condemn them in a Muslim country or, as I believe, a systematic failure to stand up for Christians in the East, who over the last decade have faced ethnic cleansing on unimaginable scale.
Just look at the facts. According to author John Allen JR, between 2006-10 Christians faced discrimination in a staggering 139 countries – nearly three quarters of all of them. While some of this persecution takes the form of discrimination, in many countries native Christian populations have been subjected to systematic intimidation, violence and murder. In 1991, Iraq had a Christian population of at least 1.5 million. Today, this figure has plummeted to as low as 150,000.
In Burma, where the native Christians are considered to be opponents of the regime, the military junta have launched helicopter gunship attacks against areas with high Christian populations. And in North Korea, a quarter of the country’s current 400,000 Christian population are believed to be in forced labour camps. And it’s not just forced labour that they have to fear – some estimates suggest that since the Korean War, 300,000 Christians have “disappeared” from the country.
According to the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity, an average 100,000 Christians have been murdered each year over last decade. A million killed for their faith, or 11 murdered every hour of everyday, of every week, but still the West says nothing!
And it’s not just countries with dubious regimes where Christians are being ethnically cleansed. In Nigeria,the terrorist group Boko Haram is believed to have killed more than 3,000 Christians since 2009, many of the victims targeted while attending church or as they left. While in the Indian province of Orissa, in one pogrom in 2008, 500 Christians were killed, many hacked to death with machetes, 50,000 were left homeless and 350 schools and churches were destroyed.
Despite this avalanche of attacks against Christians, politicians both here, in the US and EU remain almost completely silent. There are one or two brave souls, people such as Brian Binley, who has written about the plight of Christians in Iraq, or Sir Edward Leigh who has challenged the British Government over the issue, But when it comes to government level it is difficult to find anyone standing up for the world’s 2.3 billion Christians. Does this have anything to do with fact that they are overwhelmingly not white, poor and live in developing countries?
Unless the West starts taking this problem seriously, such figures as President Vladimir Putin will exploit this policy and moral vacuum. This is not some fanciful concern. The Russian premier cited the hundreds, or thousands of Christians being butchered by rebel forces in Syria as a reason not to push forward with the type of military action sought by the UK and US.
So until the West starts to stand up for the world’s persecuted Christians, or at least shows some vague interest, leaders like Putin will continue to be able to use the plight of the Coptic Christians in the Middle East, or the Catholic and Anglicans in Africa, as a way of garnering international support for his regime. More worryingly, many people will secretly be relieved that at last there is a leader who recognises the simple truth that it is not those of other religions, or even secularists who face discrimination and violence on an unprecedented scale, but Christians.