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placeholder March 24, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
'Global pandemic' of persecution
against Christians going unnoticed

John L. Allen Jr.

While Americans and Western Europeans find it hard to accept there is Christian persecution, Christians are suffering and being martyred every day in a "global pandemic," a global war on Christians.

"This is no laughing matter. It is the transcendent human rights story of our time," asserted John L. Allen Jr., in a talk to about 200 people at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland on March 18.

"Christians are not the only ones suffering persecution," Allen said, but while "Christians have no monopoly on persecution, the statistics show that Christians are more likely to be victims of persecution."

The most numerous victims of Muslims are Muslims, he said, noting there is persecution among linguistic, ethnic and cultural minorities.

While Islamic radicalization is a real and present danger to minority groups, including Christians, Allen said, most media ignore the real story.

"Christians uniquely have a hard time of getting their story told," Allen said.

Westerners are wealthy (compared to the rest of the world) and privileged, and think of Christian persecution in a historical context, as in the Crusades or Salem witch trials.

But there are 2.3 billion Christians in the world, Allen said, two-thirds of whom live in the developing world, much of that in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

The typical Christian on earth is not your typical, affluent white guy, Allen said. We have a different idea of religious freedom in Western culture compared to other places.

"In the U.S., the threat to religious freedom is you might get sued," he said. "In other parts of the world, you get shot."

"We don't grow up facing such threats," he said, and because Christianity is identified with the West, people in other countries find it easy to take out their frustrations on Christians.

"Christians are the most persecuted group on the planet," Allen said — 80 percent of the acts of religious discrimination occur against Christians. In 139 nations, he said, there is some form of legal persecution of Christians.

Allen's ninth book, "The Global War on Christians," was published in October.

As a journalist, Allen has reported on three popes. He was a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and a CNN Vatican analyst. This year he became an associate editor of the Boston Globe, with a charge to focus on the Catholic Church. He has made scores of trips to foreign countries with Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

In 1950, Mideast Christians were 20 percent of the population; that's dropped to 5 percent today. Allen cited five examples of Christian persecution and martyrdom in recent days in China, Nigeria, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Syria, where the entire Christian community is at risk of extinction. Before the civil war in Syria began, he said, there were 2.1 million Christians, 7 percent of the population, today there are only 1 million. "Over half the population has disappeared in the last four years," he said.

The assaults are global, he said. Persecution can come from many sources: in India from Hindus, from Buddhists in Sri Lanka, from drug dealers in Colombia and from the government in China.

"Acts of anti-clerical persecution have become common," he said "Colombia is the most dangerous place to be a Catholic priest in the last 20 years."

Allen offers three remedies:

• Christians elsewhere "have a profound sense of being abandoned," they tell him. "Don't forget about them."

• "We don't have to reinvent the wheel." There are already quality aid organizations providing relief in other countries.

• And, as Americans, insist our policymakers listen to the needs of Christians as we deploy our resources around the world.

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