Christianity is losing ground in America.
Onward, Christian Ninjas!?
- Erik Rush
Friday, April 12, 2013
“…I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves.”—Matthew 10:16
I wouldn’t waste much time arguing the equality of all humankind in the eyes of God with a white guy whom I’d heard declare “I hate niggers,” or with a member of the New Black Panther Party, who harbor similar sentiments against whites. Similarly, you won’t see me trying to convert those who demonstrate themselves to be part of the rising tide of Christophobes and anti-theists in our society – and I do hear from quite a few of those.
It isn’t much of a mystery why we have a rapidly-increasing number of people who hold antipathy for religion, Christianity in particular; it was part of the design of the political left to de-emphasize God and elevate the state. Playing to the natural self-seeking, baser will of human beings, they accomplished this rather successfully, particularly among certain demographics. Consequently, many younger people in the West eschew religion (at least in the traditional sense).
As we have also observed, factions within the Church have been corrupted by aspects of Social Justice, consequently, they perceive other church bodies as being their enemies. In addition to this, misplaced feelings of sympathy and solidarity have been cultivated among Americans for Islamists, which serves to further alienate people from Christianity, and of course, Judaism.
A highly insightful column by Craig Groeschel addresses some of the reasons that Christianity is losing ground in America. In general, these have to do with churches and Christians in general failing to adapt to more mundane but significant changes in our culture, of being timid, pretentious, or lukewarm in their faith.
While I find agreement with much of what Groeschel says, like much of what is typically communicated about the church by Christian scholars, it’s preaching to the choir. I’m not much into apologetics (or even the connotation of the term), but it occurs to me that a lot of Christians don’t have the slightest idea of how to reconcile the attacks of militant unbelievers within their own minds.
For example, our detractors simply adore pointing out how personally flawed we are. To me, this is a no-brainer: Of course we’re flawed – why do you think we follow Christ, you idiot? That’s probably not the most loving response in the world, but such an attack evidences a fundamental ignorance of Christianity to start with. The logic of the response is singularly accurate and should be disarming in practice, were it practiced.
Then there’s the charge that’s beyond pity in its decrepitude: all of the evil that’s been done by Christians over the centuries, some of it in the very name of Christ. Again, a no-brainer: Didn’t I just acknowledge that we were flawed? Were you not listening? Of course we’re going to pervert the message sometimes… And while I would never attempt to justify atrocities committed by Christians, I never hesitate to cite the alternative philosophies invariably espoused by these people – like the number of people enslaved and murdered by socialists and communists in the last century alone far outstripping those enslaved and murdered by Christians throughout the history of Christianity. I am also quick to point out that the New Testament doesn’t actually instruct us to behead nonbelievers or sexually mutilate pubescent girls.
In his column, Groeschel (who is the pastor of a very large church) discusses the concept of Christianity encompassing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ rather than being a religion. I realize that to the initiated, and certainly to a pastor, this is a given – but to the nonbeliever or agnostic, it is just more church-speak. Such statements typically say nothing about the nature of such a relationship, how it might be achieved, or what that means to the believer, other than it renders them able to regurgitate church-speak.
Christians whom I respect, and the more spiritual people I know very seldom wear it on their sleeve. When I meet a Christian and he shoots his hand toward me with the words “And how are yew today, brother?” I get the distinct feeling I am in danger of being raped. I know I’m not alone in this, because many so-called Christians have used their ostensible faith in order to take advantage of others. On this subject alone, volumes could be written.
But sincere Christians can’t do much about the insincere ones, and we can’t do much to sway the detractors. I tend to avoid the militant variety; when I can’t, I’m not overly concerned with appearing the hypocrite by eviscerating them (in the figurative sense, of course). “Playing nice” never works with bullies, which is why diplomacy is garbage.
Though it doesn’t make much of a difference in the practical sense, I would admonish fellow Christians, whatever their religious interpretation is, to realize that our more hostile detractors are, in effect, spiritually sick. It is easy to see that despite its imperfections, our society was far less dysfunctional 60 years ago than it is now. As secularism took hold, society became progressively (no pun intended) more dysfunctional in the aggregate, manifesting in more and more dysfunctional individuals. The charges of militant anti-Christians which exude astonishing levels of hatred and vitriol (and which frequently describe bizarre methods of torture) ought to be ample confirmation of this fact.
Predominantly Christian nations like the United States did not rise and endure as a result of their submissiveness. America’s founders certainly weren’t wimps. The stereotype of the pathologically passive Christian, in my opinion, takes the Gospel out of context and is perpetuated in order to render Christians confused and vulnerable. In the times that are coming, it is more than likely that Christians in America will be called upon to act with extreme prejudice against some of their opponents – that is, if they intend to remain counted among the living.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:35 am
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In the 1770s, the Scottish jurist, historian, and philosopher Lord Kames pointed to a disturbing paradox: “The Christian religion,” he wrote, “is eminent for a spirit of meekness, toleration, and brotherly love; and yet persecution never raged so furiously in any other religion.” Kames called this conflict between Christian principle and practice “a singular phenomenon in the history of man,” and he tried to explain how it came about.
Kames was not the first historian to call attention to this problem, nor was he the last. In 1865, the liberal historian W.E.H. Lecky put it this way: “When it is remembered that the Founder of Christianity summed up human duties in the two precepts of love to God and love to man…the history of persecution in the Christian Church appears as startling as it is painful.”
To portray the founder of the Christian religion as an exemplar of love and compassion was a common tactic among proponents of religious toleration, who argued that the life and teachings of Jesus were inconsistent with the persecuting spirit that had permeated centuries of Christian history. John Locke was far from the first proponent of toleration who appealed to Jesus as a paradigm that Christians should emulate. In A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), Locke maintained that Jesus and his apostles were armed not with swords and other “instruments of force” but with “the Gospel of peace.” If Jesus had wished to convert people by force, he could easily have raised “armies of heavenly legions” that were far more powerful than all the dragoons of earthly governments, but this was not his method, which was persuasion, not coercion. According to Locke, the “toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion” is so agreeable both “to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind” that it requires a peculiar type of intellectual blindness not to recognize these obvious facts.
Christian opponents of toleration were not likely to be convinced by Locke’s arguments; they had heard them many times before, and they needed only consult the armory of arguments for persecution in the writings of St. Augustine (354-430) to answer them.
When Augustine (the first Christian theologian to develop a systematic defense of persecution) was challenged by critics to name even one incident where Jesus had used coercion instead of persuasion, he pulled an ace out of his sleeve. This was the famous story (Acts 9:1-18) of Paul’s journey on the road to Damascus. While on his way to persecute Christians, Paul (then known as Saul) fell to the ground as he heard the voice of Jesus and was blinded by a bright light. This conversion of Paul, according to Augustine, clearly involved compulsion, for Christ “used his power to knock Paul down” and also “struck him with physical blindness” (a disability that lasted three days). Thus did Paul come “to the gospel under the compulsion of a physical punishment,” and thus was the tolerationist argument that Christ never used physical force decisively refuted — at least in the minds of Augustine and many later Christians who repeated his argument. For example, in the thirteenth century Thomas Aquinas followed Augustine’s lead when he argued that “Christ at first compelled Paul and afterwards taught him.”
This brings us to a fundamental point about the historical debates over persecution versus toleration. From the early centuries of Christianity until roughly the early eighteenth century, such debates revolved, first and foremost, around the Bible. This is not to deny that philosophical and pragmatic arguments also played a role; on the contrary, they sometimes played an important role, but the defender of either side was ultimately obligated to show that his position harmonized with biblical teachings. The importance of biblical arguments may be seen in John Milton’s defense of toleration, A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes (1659), in which he noted at the outset: “What I argue shall be drawn from the scripture only; and therein from true fundamental principles of the gospel, to all knowing Christians undeniable.” Likewise, when Roger Williams published his remarkable manifesto calling for the separation of church and state (The Bloody Tenet of Persecution 1644), it was so laden with detailed analyses of biblical texts that modern readers are apt to find much of it difficult to follow.
Among the many biblical passages cited by all sides in the controversy over religious toleration, two stood out above all others. Each side had a favorite proof passage, a parable attributed to Jesus, that it cited more frequently than any other biblical text. For defenders of persecution it was the Parable of the Feast (Luke 14:15-25), whereas for defenders of toleration it was the Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13: 24-30).
In the Parable of the Feast, Jesus tells of a man who invited many guests to a great supper and sent his servants to tell them that the feast was ready. But some invitees gave excuses explaining why they could not attend; and when a servant related those excuses to the host by saying, “Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room,” the host replied: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
“Compel them to come in”—no other statement of this brevity has had a more disastrous effect on the history of Western civilization. Whatever Jesus may have meant by this parable, it became the definitive text—one cited endlessly by the proponents of persecution—to prove that Jesus (and therefore God) had sanctioned, indeed commanded, the use of coercion against heretics and others who would not voluntarily embrace Christian orthodoxy, whether Catholic or Protestant.
The Parable of the Feast began its career as the pillar passage for persecution during the early fifth century, when it was invoked repeatedly by Augustine. So enduring was the significance of this text that when Pierre Bayle wrote his critique of persecution during the 1680s, he called it A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14: 23, “Compel Them to Come In, That my House May Be Full.” Much of this lengthy book, which runs nearly 600 pages in the English translation, is devoted to rebutting the claim that the Parable of the Feast, properly understood, is a justification for religious persecution.
On the other side of the scale stood the Parable of the Tares, which was the key passage for defenders of toleration. In this parable Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but whose enemies planted tares (i.e., weeds) among the wheat. When the crop sprouted and servants came to the owner to ask whether they should remove the tares, he replied: “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest….”
As interpreted by defenders of toleration, the Parable of the Tares taught that it is the business of God, not man, to deal with those who reject the Christian faith, and that human authorities will do more harm than good if they use coercion to punish heretics, dissenters, and unbelievers. But the defenders of persecution were not persuaded; they had no difficulty interpreting this parable so that it conformed to their own predispositions. For example, according to the church father John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), in the Parable of the Tares Jesus merely forbids the killing of heretics; he does not forbid us “to restrain heretics, to stop their mouths, to take away their freedom of speech, to break up their assemblies and societies.”
As Augustine explained the Parable of the Tares, it simply cautions against uprooting weeds when this might result in damaging the wheat as well, but this is not a problem when the weeds can easily be identified and separated without causing damage to the wheat. Hence when heretics can easily be recognized — and Augustine had no problem spotting them — Christian authorities should not hesitate to use coercion against them. Augustine’s rather tortured interpretation of the Parable of the Tares became standard fare among later defenders of persecution, especially after Thomas Aquinas adopted it eight centuries later. Although there were some dissenting voices in the Catholic Church, the combined authority of Augustine and Aquinas proved overwhelming until after the Protestant Reformation.
Because of its religious significance the Bible seemed to provide a common framework wherein Christians could settle disputes about God’s will in matters relating to the respective roles of coercion and persuasion, but the ideal rarely conformed to practice. In the debates over toleration there was no passage cited by one side that could not be explained away or interpreted differently by the other side. We have already seen this with the Parable of the Tares, and we find another instance — again, one hatched from the fertile mind of Augustine — in John 6: 66-7, which tells how many followers left Jesus “and walked with Him no more.” In response, Jesus asked the twelve disciples who remained, “Do you also want to go away?”—and this implies that Jesus regarded acceptance of his teachings as a purely voluntary matter. Or so it seemed to the defenders of toleration.
Augustine responded to this biblical argument with a typical tactic. He argued that this and similar examples, including those instances where early Christians spurned the Roman state and refused to call upon it to aid their cause, must be understood in a broader context. The context in this case consisted of Old Testament prophecies — most notably Psalms 72:11, according to which “all nations” will one day serve God. That day had obviously not arrived while Christians were a despised and powerless minority in the Roman Empire, and this is why Jesus “recommended humility” during the time when “the church was just beginning to sprout from a recent seed.” But things changed—the prophecy began to be fulfilled — when the emperor Constantine and his successors Christianized the Roman Empire, so it was now fitting for Christians to use coercion as the Catholic Church continued on its path to convert the entire world. As Augustine put it: “Certainly the more nearly this [prophecy] is fulfilled, the greater the power at the church’s disposal. Consequently, she can not only invite others to embrace what is good, but also compel them.”
In the event this interpretation might appear strained, Augustine immediately fortified it by recalling the words of Jesus, “Compel them to come in, until my house is full.” This “indicated the point quite clearly”; even if heretics and schismatics were “walking quietly outside the banquet of the holy unity of the church” (i.e., even if these dissenters were bothering no one), the church should still “compel them to come in.” For many centuries to come, all roads to persecution would eventually lead to these few fateful words.
It was no accident that many defenders of persecution relied heavily on the Old Testament; in that collection of writings they found abundant grist for their mill, such as the injunction (Lev. 24:16), “He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death.” This passage largely explains why John Calvin and other Protestant Reformers represented heresy and other religious crimes as a type of blasphemy; this classification provided scriptural warrant for the death penalty. Other passages, such as the injunction that false prophets “shall be put to death” (Deut. 13: 5), served the same purpose, as did stories like that found in I Kings 18, where the prophet Elijah had 450 followers of Baal slaughtered without pity.
In addition, the theocratic rule of David and other kings of Israel, in which both the secular and the spiritual realms were the subject of coercive laws, later provided Christians with ample precedents to support the argument that God never intended to leave religious matters to the voluntary decisions of individuals. As the American Puritan John Cotton put it: “the eternal equity of that judicial law of Moses was of moral force and binds all Princes to express that zeal and indignation, both against blasphemy…and against seduction to idolatry.”
As crucial as these and other biblical passages were in the debates over religious toleration — their significance is nearly impossible to overestimate — it would be both pointless and impossible to discuss in any detail the arguments they engendered. Suffice it to say that Christians did not accept some of the Old Testament, especially those parts of the Mosaic law that prescribed circumcision and other rituals, as binding upon Christians; but they did agree that its fundamental moral precepts, such as the Ten Commandments, were still obligatory. Between these two extremes, however, there were gray areas, such as the capital laws against blasphemy and idolatry. Whether or not such laws applied to Christian communities was a major topic of debate.
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Rex Murphy on Obama’s war against Christianity: When the Church struck back
Rex Murphy Feb 11, 2012
Obama erred because backlash from the bishops only reassured him of his moral superiority.
The American administration is headed by a man who, when he wishes, makes a good deal of his Christianity. Churches, one in particular, used to matter very much to Barack Obama indeed. He made his first real move as a politician by choosing an appropriate church in Chicago — Obama walked into politics through its front door.
Nonetheless, we have just seen the most vivid example in some time how little regard the progressive Obama has for the rights of churches and religion, and the associated imperatives of conscience and worship.
There has been a raging storm in the U.S. for several weeks over a provision of Obamacare that compels the nation’s many Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions to fund sterilizations, contraceptives and morning-after pills for their employees, despite each of these being fully athwart fundamental Catholic doctrine on sexuality, abortion and life.
Charles Krauthammer: The Obama creed of contradictory theologies
It is rather difficult to understand how a White House, facing re-election while burdened with an ailing economy, could have made so egregious a blunder as to deeply offend the moral and religious sensibilities of so many. Why would they risk opening a new and significant front — freedom of religion and conscience — for the Republicans to mount fresh attacks upon?
The administration achieved something astonishing with this blundering intrusion: They awakened the moral fervour and courage of the institutional Catholic Church and its bishops. The bishops almost instantly (and they say the age of miracles is past!) hit back. As opposed to the usual euphemistic blather and fuzzy words that issue from the Catholic hierarchy in times of tension, on this issue they were clear and defiant: “[Obama] is denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom — that of religious liberty. We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” No equivocation there. Not this time.
How did such a thing happen? How did the White House decide that it was a good idea to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraception and reproductive health-care services that the Church abhors? Perhaps America’s current Caesar sees no wisdom beyond his own. Anything that might impede the full implementation of Obamacare is to be dismissed, full stop.
He should have thought better of dismissing this criticism. His progressivism has finally collided with something that it cannot easily ignore, belittle or evade. Nothing less that the great guarantee of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees the free exercise of religion, now stands in his way.
Still, for an entire week, the White House stuck to its guns. Few things are as precious to the progressive mind as their dogma concerning sexuality and birth control. I suspect within the White House they may initially have seen the mounting backlash from the Church as confirmation of how right they really were. After all, if men in church pulpits, and those who “cling” to religion were against them – well, then, this had to be right.
Finally, though, the volume of the angry shouts seems to have gotten through to them. When even noted Obama-worshipper (and MSNBC host) Chris Matthews began to fume about this measure, warning it could provoke “civil disobedience,” the White House must have known it had pushed too far. And so on Friday, there was the beginning of a comedown — responsibility for payment for the birth control and other services will now fall on the insurance companies directly, and not the Catholic institutions themselves.
It remains to be seen if that will be enough to extinguish this controversy — it certainly won’t be enough to undo the damage already done. All in all, the controversy has been an instructive one — as a glimpse into the smooth, untroubled complacencies of the caring and superior secular mind, it is without many parallels.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:15 pm
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Christianity May Be Eradicated in Iraq and Afghanistan, Says Chair of U.S. Religious Freedom Commission
By Terence P. Jeffrey
December 22, 2011
(CNSNews.com) – Despite long-term U.S. military occupations aimed at establishing representative governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Christianity now faces the real threat of eradication in those countries because of severe and persistent persecution of Christians there, according to the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Similarly, despite the “Arab Spring” rebellion in Egypt earlier this year, the survival of Christianity is also threatened in that country because of the escalating persecution of Christians.
“We are looking at two different countries where the United States invaded, occupied, changed their governments in the last decade–Iraq and Afghanistan–where it’s possible Christianity might be eradicated in our lifetime?” CNSNews.com asked USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo in a video interview.
“Yes,” said Leo, “and, unfortunately, that is sort of the pattern throughout the Middle Eastern region. The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year. It’s a very, very alarming situation.”
In Egypt, according to Leo, anti-Christian violence and discrimination may inspire a mass migration of that nation’s Coptic Christian population, thus achieving a strategic goal sought by radical Muslims.
“The radical Islamists would accomplish their goal, if they drove the Coptic Christians out of the country, absolutely,” Leo told CNSNews.com in an Online With Terry Jeffrey interview.
Leo, who also serves as vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, was initially appointed and reappointed to USCIRF by President George W. Bush, and most recently was reappointed again by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.).
In its official report published earlier this year, USCRIF said that Christian leaders in Iraq were themselves warning of the end of Christianity in their country.
“Half or more of the pre-2003 Iraqi Christian community is believed to have left the country, with Christian leaders warning that the consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq,” USCIRF said in its annual report. “In 2003, there were thought to be 800,000 to 1.4 million Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East members, Syriac Orthodox, Armenians (Catholic and Orthodox), Protestants, and Evangelicals in Iraq. Today, community leaders estimate the number of Christians to be around 500,000.”
Iraqi Christians have been targeted by murderous attacks in recent years, according to USCIRF. In 2010, for example, al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists killed 50 people and wounded 60 more, during Mass, at a Catholic church in Baghdad. Among those the terrorists killed were two priests. In the months following the massacre, a series of bombing attacks on homes in Baghdad killed at least seven Christians and wounded 50 more. Christians were also shot to death in Baghdad and Mosul, while 70 Christian students were injured by a roadside bomb attack on a convoy of buses taking them to a university in Mosul.
A Christian cardiologist was attacked by gunmen who targeted him at the medical clinic where he worked.
According to Leo, the Iraqi government has not taken adequate steps to protect Christians or prosecute those who attack them.
“One of the big problems from the very beginning was that our country and others were unwilling to acknowledge that the fight in Iraq was largely a sectarian conflict and there wasn’t enough emphasis placed on the flight of Christians and other religious minorities, particularly in the northern part of Iraq,” said Leo.
“So, the strategy didn’t take into account the fact that you were going to have a huge, huge flight of Christians out of the country, and then you were going to have the same kind of impunity or privately driven violence that we were talking about in Pakistan, but this time in Iraq,” Leo said.
“That is precisely what has happened,” he said. “So, it is very ironic that here we are trying to stabilize and democratize a country and at the same time we are losing large percentages of religious minorities … which have always been such an important part of the Iraqi fabric of society, holding it together. And so that is a very, very serious problem.”
CNSNews.com asked Leo what kind of leverage and what types of instruments the U.S. would have to protect the Christian population in Iraq once President Obama had withdrawn all U.S. forces from the country.
“I have no idea,” Leo said. “I’m very, very concerned about what will happen after our presence is completely gone, and I don’t know how we continue to put pressure on the Iraqi government and on the security forces and others in Iraq to protect the Christians in the absence of any presence.”
USCIRF asked that the State Department officially name Iraq as a “country of particular concern” for the lack of religious freedom there, but the State Department declined to do so.
In Afghanistan, Leo says, a constitution that was drafted with the help of the United States government has effectively given the Afghan government license to deny religious liberty to people who adhere to minority faiths, including Christianity.
“Conditions for religious freedom remain exceedingly poor for minority religious communities and dissenting members of the majority faith, despite the presence of U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan for almost 10 years and the substantial investment of lives, resources, and expertise by the United States and the international community,” says the USCIRF report. “The 2004 Afghan constitution has effectively established Islamic law as the law of the land.”
“In the past year,” says the USCIRF report, “the small and vulnerable Christian community experienced a spike in government arrests, with Christians being detained and some jailed for the crime of apostasy.”
The State Department has reported that in March 2010 the last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed.
“This is one of the saddest cases that we look at every year,” said Leo.
“Speaking personally, I wrote a separate opinion in the case of Afghanistan,” he said. “I think one of the sources of the problem was way back when we helped hammer out a constitution for the new Afghanistan. In that constitution, there is what we call a repugnancy clause, which basically says anything that’s inconsistent with Sharia principles is violative of this constitution. That clause, no matter what else is in the constitution, basically forecloses the kind of reform that you’re looking for, because any extreme religious sub-sect can impose its radical view of Sharia and enshrine it in the constitutional system in Afghanistan. And if that’s the kind of government system they have, there is no real way to ensure freedom of religion broadly speaking. There’s no way to ensure that religious minorities are going to have freedom in law.”
Leo is uncertain religious freedom can ever recover in Afghanistan from the damage done by the new Afghan constitution.
“The constitution drafting process with which we were involved was a disaster and I’m not sure Afghanistan can ever fully recover from the damage that we inflicted by not holding the line on the kind of constitution drafting that we should have been pushing for,” he said.
He rejects the argument made by those who point to language elsewhere in Afghanistan’s Constitution that says Afghanistan will abide by international agreements that call for respecting human rights.
CNSNews.com asked: “So Islamic apostasy laws that hold it a capital offense for someone to convert to Christianity are legitimate under the Afghan constitution as it was written?”
“Yeah,” said Leo. “There are cute-by-half scholars who will tell you that it’s not because there is another provision in the constitution that says they’ll abide by international agreements. Those who know how the world really works will tell you that a repugnancy clause is what it says. It is a repugnancy clause that trumps everything else in the constitution. So the bottom line is even though Afghanistan has been a party to a lot of these international agreements, they have essentially reserved on them and they have created their own distinctions and I don’t think there is really any hope that the country is going to begin abiding by those human rights agreements.
“And they do in fact prosecute people for apostasy?” asked CNSNews.com.
“They do,” said Leo, pointing out that “there were a couple of instances over the past year where Christian converts where quietly released–thanks to the U.S.”
“So are we looking at an Afghanistan where after the United States leaves Christianity is eradicated there?” asked CNSNews.com
“Unfortunately I think that’s where things are headed,” said Leo.
Egypt, he says, is headed down a similar path.
Leo and follow religious freedom commissioners, Nina Shea and Elizabeth Prodromou, filed a separate statement attached to the section of the full commission’s report that focuses on Egypt.
“We write separately to underscore the concern that Egypt is on a trajectory that is part of a broader trend toward the irreparable and severe diminution of Christian and religious minority populations,” the three commissioners said.
“In several countries covered in this report—Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—the non-Muslim religious minority communities are facing existential threats while experiencing varying degrees and manifestations of intolerance and injustice,” they said.
“By far, the largest non-Muslim minority community among these countries is Egypt’s Copts, numbering between 8 million and 12 million,” they wrote. “A year and a half ago, Coptic worshippers were massacred during a Christmas Eve attack on their church in Naga Hammadi in southern Egypt.
“This year,” the commissioners said, “a crowded church near Alexandria was bombed by militants at New Year, and several Coptic villages have been targeted by pogrom-like mob violence. Attacks against Copts were carried out largely with impunity under an indifferent Mubarak regime. A recent announcement that the rising Muslim Brotherhood movement would seek the imposition of Islamic law in Egypt is now sending shock waves through the Coptic community.”
In October, after the USCIRF report was published, a crowd of Coptic Christians in Cairo protesting the burning of a Coptic church were attacked by Egyptian security forces, operating under the authority of the post-Mubarak regime, who reportedly shot and killed 24 protesters and wounded 300 more.
“The Arab spring got a cold snap,” says Leo, “and the bottom line is I’m not sure whether there is going to be much of a crop at the end of the day.”
“With what’s going on in Egypt, with the uncertainties that exist, there’s very little incentive for a young Coptic Christian to stay in the county,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if you saw the same basic trajectory in Egypt that you see in quite a number of other countries which is to say they just get up and they leave.”
“The problem is that even under Mubarak, the courts, the prosecutors, the police weren’t really investigating and bringing to justice the people who are really doing this kind of stuff,” said Leo. “But then you have to compound that problem with you may actually have a government that steps up the official repression of religion.”
“You may see laws that may further restrict the kinds of churches or other gathering places that Christians can have,” said Leo. “You could potentially see upticks in discrimination against Coptic Christians in hiring and in education. Those are the kinds of things that the Coptics really have to be worried about. They are a fairly successful community in Egypt, so if they start seeing state repression through discriminatory laws, that’s going to create huge incentives for the Coptic Christian community to up and leave–especially the younger ones who feel they have a bright future ahead of them.”
For the first time ever, USCIRF recommended this year that the State Department list Egypt as a “country of particular” for its denial of religious freedom.
The State Department declined to do so.
Leo argues that the administration must find a way soon to get the Egyptian government to protect its own Christian population or it will be too late.
“There needs to be a tie-in between the enormous aid we give to Egypt and the protection of communities,” said Leo. “We haven’t seen that tie in yet. And it is complicated because security and police forces are not what they should be. And it’s not clear how you would funnel transitional aid and support to help deal with this problem. But we’ve got to start putting on the problem-solving hat and really trying to figure this out and we need to step up our efforts here."
“We’ve seen frustration on the part of the administration that they are just not sure how to do this,” said Leo. “I understand it and I’m sympathetic to it. But it’s time to try to harness some of that frustration to some entrepreneurial and edgy ideas that get the Egyptian government where it needs to be–and those probably need to be behind the scenes. And that’s’ fine, but something has to be done and has to be done now.
“There is very little time left,” he said.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:23 pm
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