On October 31 there was a deadly terrorist attack on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad, Iraq, while Mass was being held. Launched by the al-Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgent group Islamic State of Iraq, the assault claimed 58 lives, while 78 were injured and 100 taken hostage. But amidst the blood, tears, terror, and carnage emerged a story that is as spirit-lifting as it is sad. It involves a three-year-old boy named Adam, who, on that day, witnessed this greatest of evils claim both his mother and father. Michael Terheyden relates what followed at Catholic Online, writing:
"Three-year-old Adam witnessed the horror of dozens of deaths, including that of his own parents. He wandered among the corpses and the blood, following the terrorists around and admonishing them, 'enough, enough, enough.' According to witnesses, this continued for two hours until Adam was himself murdered." That is all I know about Adam, but I cannot get his story out of my head. I believe Adam gave us a message for the whole world.
The reason I believe Adam gave us a message is because what he did and said seems so unnatural to me. I find it incomprehensible that a three-year-old child could witness so much death around him, even his mother and father, and then follow the murderers amongst the carnage admonishing them for hours. I would think that most children would be frozen with fear or hysterical, but Adam was not. Rather, out of the mouth of this brave little child came the words of pure truth.
While Terheyden believes Adam’s message is a complex one, he writes that part of it is the following, “We can easily envision Adam telling terrorists to stop the genocide of Catholics in Iraq; but this can be expanded ... to include all persecuted Christians throughout the Middle East, in India and Pakistan, in China and in Vietnam, and in Sudan and African countries.”
And it should be. While Adam may be the youngest of today’s martyrs, he isn’t close to being the only one. That is to say, when we think of oppressed minorities, we may imagine Tibetan monks, the Kurds in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Yet the most persecuted group worldwide is also the most ignored: Christians. Treating the matter, avowed atheist Anthony Browne writes:
There are now more than 300 million Christians who are either threatened with violence or legally discriminated against simply because of their faith — more than any other religion. Christians are no longer, as far as I am aware, thrown to the lions. But from China, North Korea and Malaysia, through India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, they are subjected to legalised discrimination, violence, imprisonment, relocation and forced conversion. Even in supposedly Christian Europe, Christianity has become the most mocked religion, its followers treated with public suspicion and derision.
As for current examples of this persecution, there is 45-year-old Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, who has just been sentenced to death in Pakistan for “blasphemy” against the Prophet Mohammed; and Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faces capital punishment in Iran for renouncing Islam. Yet these stories merely put human faces on a widespread problem. As Browne points out in his piece:
• In Muslim countries, it’s common to allow conversion to Islam but to outlaw conversion to Christianity.
• The Coptic Christians in Egypt are subject to blatant discrimination; they are restricted from holding certain positions and attending certain schools, and must even obtain permission to repair their churches.
• Recently, 12 states in Nigeria have introduced Sharia law, and efforts to further Islamize part of Indonesia have been launched. And many thousands of Christians have been murdered in the two nations during the last few years.
• In Sri Lanka, a Buddhist-majority nation, 44 churches were attacked over a period of mere months and 140 were forced to close.
• In India, affirmative-action programs offer benefits to poor Buddhists and Hindus but not to Christians.
And the above presents just a glimpse of a story of Christian persecution that Browne lays out magnificently in his piece. I strongly suggest you read it.
While Christian persecution is a global phenomenon, it is perhaps most intense where little Adam was martyred, the Middle East. This is ironic because while we now refer to the region as the “Muslim world,” Christianity was not only born there but, unbeknownst to most, was its dominant religion by the 400s A.D. In fact, it was an earlier persecution of Christians — the Islamic conquests of the old Christian lands starting in 632 — that ultimately sparked the Crusades (see my essay “When Christendom Pushed Back”). Yet while medieval Christians were inspired to aid their embattled eastern brothers, today’s nominal Western Christians are often indifferent or even hostile to them.
As an example, despite the fact that the United States helped craft the Iraqi and Afghani constitutions, they both contain “repugnancy clauses.” Explains writer Ken Blackwell, “These repugnancy clauses say, in sum, that notwithstanding anything else in this constitution, nothing may be done by this government that is repugnant to Islam.” In other words, they subordinate all other constitutional concerns to Sharia law, thus making a mockery of constitutional government and our nation-building efforts. After all, freedom of speech or religion may ostensibly be guaranteed in the two nations’ constitutions, but only insofar as their exercise doesn’t offend Muslims.
Speaking of which, the desire to avoid such offense is one reason why our media will focus little on Christian persecution, repugnancy clauses or moving stories about young boys with the courage of a Crusader. But there is also a more significant reason, one Anthony Browne states quite bluntly: “The trouble is that the trendies who normally champion human rights seem to think persecution is fine, so long as it’s only against Christians.” He concludes with:
As a liberal democrat atheist, I believe all persecuted people should be helped equally, irrespective of their religion. But the guilt-ridden West is ignoring people because of their religion. If non-Christians like me can sense the nonsense, how does it make Christians feel? And how are they going to react? The Christophobes worried about rising Christian fundamentalism in Britain should understand that it is a reaction to our double standards. And as long as our double standards exist, Christian fundamentalism will grow.
While it occurs to me that if there is Christian “fundamentalism” in Britain, it’s hiding very well, Browne deserves credit for his honesty. And, perhaps, not just those who persecute Christians but also those in the media whose silence renders them complicit should hear a little voice saying, “Enough, enough, enough….”