The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution

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9780770437350: The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution

One of the most respected journalists in the United States and the bestselling author of The Future Church uses his unparalleled knowledge of world affairs and religious insight to investigate the troubling worldwide persecution of Christians. From Iraq and Egypt to Sudan and Nigeria, from Indonesia to the Indian subcontinent, Christians in the early 21st century are the world's most persecuted religious group. According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of violations of religious freedom in the world today are directed against Christians. In effect, our era is witnessing the rise of a new generation of martyrs. Underlying the global war on Christians is the demographic reality that more than two-thirds of the world's 2.3 billion Christians now live outside the West, often as a beleaguered minority up against a hostile majority-- whether it's Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, Hindu radicalism in India, or state-imposed atheism in China and North Korea. In Europe and North America, Christians face political and legal challenges to religious freedom. Allen exposes the deadly threats and offers investigative insight into what is and can be done to stop these atrocities. This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early 21st century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: The global war on Christians, writes John Allen. We re not talking about a metaphorical war on religion in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it s okay to erect a nativity set on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. However counter-intuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as a powerful and sometimes oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence. This book looks to shatter that silence.

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L'autore:

JOHN L. ALLEN JR. is the senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and the senior Vatican analyst for CNN, and writes for other national and international publications. He speaks at nearly fifty engagements a year and is the author of seven previous books, including his most recent A People of Hope: The Challenges Facing the Catholic Church and the Faith That Can Save It.

Estratto. © Riproduzione autorizzata. Diritti riservati.:

INTRODUCTION

This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: the global war on Christians. We're not talking about a  metaphorical "war on religion" in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it's okay to erect a nativity scene on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment, and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. However counterintuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as  a powerful and some­ times oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their new martyrs suffer in silence. The Me'eter military camp and prison, located in the Eritrean desert off the coast of the Red Sea, is a compelling place to begin the tale.
The prison's signature bit of cruelty is the use of crude metal ship­ ping containers to hold inmates, with  so  many people forced into these 40-by-38-foot spaces, designed to transport commercial cargo, that prisoners typically have no room to lie down and barely enough to sit. The metal exacerbates the desert temperatures, which means bone-chilling cold at night and wilting heat during the day. When the sun is at its peak, temperatures inside the containers are believed to reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. One former inmate, lucky enough to be released after serving up a coerced confession, described the containers as “giant ovens baking people alive.” Because prisoners are given little water, they sometimes end up drinking their own scant sweat and urine to stay alive.
When not in lockdown, prisoners are forced into pointless exercises such as counting grains of sand in the desert at midday, and scores die of heatstroke and dehydration.  There are no toilets inside the containers, just crude buckets overflowing with urine and feces, placing inmates at risk of infection with diseases such as cholera and diphtheria. Prisoners have no contact with their families or friends, no legal representation, and no medical care. Forms of torture at Me’eter (also transliterated as “Meiter” and “Mitire”) include making inmates kneel on a tree trunk and beating the soles of their feet with rubber hoses; hanging prisoners by their arms and exposing them to the sun, sometimes for forty-eight hours or more; and forcing prisoners to walk barefoot over stones and thorns, with beatings for not going fast enough. Survivors say sexual abuse is also common.
Me’eter was opened in 2009 by Eritrea’s single-party regime, con- trolled by the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, and is still going strong, despite the fact its horrors are well documented. Diplomatic cables released in 2011  by WikiLeaks reveal that U.S. officials had interviewed escapees from Eritrea’s concentration camps and passed along reports to the State Department.
Here’s how one female survivor described life at night inside the shipping containers in a 2009 book:
A  single candle flickers, its flame barely illuminating the dark- ness. They never burn for more than two hours after the door is locked; there’s not enough oxygen to keep the flame alive. The air is thick with a dirty metallic tang, the ever-present stench of the bucket in the corner, and the smell of close-pressed, unwashed bodies. Despite the proximity of  so many people, it’s freezing cold.
This survivor described being forced to squat on her haunches and lift three different sizes of rocks while moving them from one side of her body to another, over and over again. At one point she was tossed into a container with a female inmate who had been beaten so badly her uterus was actually hanging outside her body. The survivor desperately tried to push the uterus back in, but cries for help went unanswered and the woman died in agonizing pain.
The unavoidable question is why the abuse at Me’eter doesn’t arouse the same horror and intense public fascination as the celebrated atrocities that unfolded at Abu Ghraib, for instance, or at Guantanamo Bay. Why hasn’t there been the same avalanche of investigations, media exposés, protest marches, pop culture references, and the other typical indices of scandal? Why isn’t the whole world abuzz with outrage over the grotesque violations of human rights at Me’eter?
In part it’s because Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay were operated by the United States, a country that styles itself a champion of democracy and the rule of law. Nobody really has the same expectations of Eritrea, a one-party state ruled since 1993 by a strongman who prevailed in a bloody civil war. More basically, however, the difference comes down to this: Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay formed chapters in a war everyone cared about, meaning the U.S.-led “war on terror,” while Me’eter is an equally dramatic chapter in a war that almost no one is aware is even being waged.
 
 
S N AP S H O T S  O F  A  G L O B AL  W AR
For all intents and purposes, Me’eter is a concentration camp for Christians. It’s a military complex converted to house religious prisoners, most of whom adhere to a branch of Christianity not authorized by the state. While precise counts are elusive, most estimates say that some- where between two thousand and three thousand Christians are presently languishing in Eritrean prisons because of their religious beliefs. The testimony quoted above comes from an evangelical  gospel singer named Helen Berhane, an Eritrean Christian jailed from 2004 to 2006 after refusing to sign a pledge promising not to engage in religious activities. She was released thanks to a worldwide pressure campaign, but most of her fellow Christians haven’t been so lucky.
Eritrea is far from an isolated case. The evangelical group Open Doors, devoted to  monitoring anti-Christian persecution, estimates that one hundred million Christians worldwide presently face interrogation, arrest, torture, or even death because of their religious convictions. Protestant scholar Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, an expert on religious demography, has pegged the number of Christians killed per year from 2000 to 2010 at one hundred thou- sand. That works out to eleven Christians killed every hour, every day, throughout the past decade. Some experts question that number, but even the low-end estimate puts the number of Christians killed every day on the basis of religious hatred at twenty, almost one per hour.
This is a truly ecumenical scourge, in the sense that it afflicts evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Anglicans, Orthodox, Catholics, and Pentecostals alike. All denominations have their martyrs, and all are more or less equally at risk. A 2011 report from the Catholic humanitarian group Aid to the Church in Need described the worldwide assault on Christians as “a human rights disaster of epic proportions.”
Though such language could seem to smack of hyperbole, consider these snapshots of what’s happening:
•    In Baghdad, Iraq, Islamic militants stormed the Syrian Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation on October 31, 2010, killing the two priests celebrating Mass and leaving a total of fifty-eight people dead. Though shocking, the assault was far from unprecedented: of the sixty-five Christian churches in Baghdad, forty have been bombed at least once since the beginning of the 2003  U.S.-led invasion. The effect of this campaign of violence and intimidation has been devastating for Christianity in the country. At the time of the first Gulf War in 1991, Iraq boasted a flourishing Christian population of at least 1.5 million. Today the high-end estimate for the number of Christians left is around 500,000, and many believe it could be as low as 150,000. Most of these Iraqi Christians have gone into exile, but a staggering number have been killed.
•    India’s northeastern state of Orissa was the scene of the most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early twenty-first century. In 2008,  a series of riots ended with as many as five hundred Christians killed, many hacked to death by machete- wielding Hindu radicals; thousands more were injured, and at least fifty thousand were left homeless. Many Christians fled to hastily prepared displacement camps, where some languished for two years or more. An estimated five thousand Christian homes, along with 350 churches and schools, were destroyed. A Catholic nun, Sr. Meena Barwa, was raped during the mayhem, then marched naked through the streets and beaten. Police sympathetic to  the  radicals discouraged the nun from filing a report and declined to arrest her attackers.
•    In Burma, members of the Chin and Karen ethnic groups, who are strongly Christian, are considered dissidents by the regime and routinely subjected to imprisonment, torture, forced labor, and murder. In October 2010, the Burmese military launched helicopter strikes in territories where the country’s Christians are concentrated. A  Burmese air force source told reporters that the junta had declared these areas “ black zones,” where military personnel were authorized to attack and kill Christian targets on sight. Though there are no precise counts, thousands of Burmese Christians are believed to have been killed in the offensive.
•    In Nigeria, the militant Islamic movement Boko Haram is held responsible for almost three thousand deaths since 2009, including eight hundred fatalities in 2012 alone. The movement has made a specialty out of targeting Christians and their churches, and in some cases they seem determined to drive Christians completely out of parts of the country. In December 2011, local Boko Haram spokespeople announced that all Christians in Nigeria’s northern Yobe and Borno states had three days to get out, and followed up with a spate of church bombings on January 5–6, 2012, which left at least twenty-six Christians dead, as well as two separate shooting sprees in which eight more Christians died. In the aftermath, hundreds of Christians fled the area, and many are still displaced. Over Christmas 2012, at least fifteen Christians are believed to have had their throats cut by Boko Haram assailants.
•    North Korea is widely considered the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian; roughly a quarter of the country’s two hundred thousand to four hundred thousand Christians are believed to  be  living in  forced-labor camps because of their refusal to join the national cult around founder Kim Il Sung. The anti-Christian  animus is so strong that even people with Christian grandparents are frozen out of the most important jobs—a grand irony, given that Kim Il Sung’s mother was a Presbyterian deaconess. Since the armistice in 1953 that stabilized the division of the peninsula, some three hundred thousand Christians in North Korea have simply disappeared and are presumed to be dead.
Subsequent chapters will recount similar episodes from other parts of the world, but the point should already be clear: in a remarkable number of global neighborhoods, being a Christian is hazardous to your health.
The ways and means of this war on Christians vary, but at its most extreme it’s a form of religious cleansing designed to wipe Christians off a particular part of the map. Take the case of southeastern Turkey, a zone bordering Syria where today Kurds and militant Turkish nationalists vie for control. At  the beginning of the twentieth century there was a flourishing community of half a million Aramaic-speaking Christians in the area, keeping alive the language traditionally thought to have been spoken by Christ. By the end of the century, the Aramaic Christian population had shriveled to twenty-five hundred due both to violent persecution and to the daily pressures of de jure and de facto discrimination, and most people believe it’s only a question of time before it becomes an artifact of history.
Nura Ardin, eighty-five, is one such exile. He recently told journalists that his family stayed in the area as long as his oldest son was alive, because the son had made a promise to the local bishop to remain as long as the bishop did. Upon hearing of that vow, Ardin said, Turkish nationalists raided the family’s home one night in 1986 and shot his oldest son to death, whereupon the rest of the family decided to cut their losses and get out. Walking through southeastern Turkey’s ghost towns of empty Christian villages, one has the feeling that here the war on Christians is basically already over.

T H E  R H ET O R I C  O F  W AR
“War” is probably the most overused term in politics, especially in the United States. Americans call pretty much everything a war—“war on poverty,” “war on drugs,” “war on terror,” “culture wars,” even a slightly self-parodying “war on Christmas.” During the 2012 election, several more alleged wars emerged, including a “war on women” and a “war on religion.” Generally such rhetoric is an invitation to hysteria. Believing that you don’t just disagree with someone but are at war with them makes it far more difficult to find common ground. After all, nobody wants to be the Neville Chamberlain of the war on Christmas.
Before going further, therefore, we must clearly identify the risks of describing the pattern of religious violence summarized above as a “war.”
•    Calling it a “war” could suggest a degree of coordination to anti-Christian persecution that simply doesn’t exist. There’s no single enemy, and the problem can’t be solved with a single strategic approach.
•    Using the imagery of war could come off as a call to arms, a way of urging Christians to stop turning the other cheek. The last thing the world needs is a contemporary version of the Crusader armies of yore, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
•    Overheated rhetoric could inflame the situation, making life even more perilous for Christians who already carry a bull ’s- eye on their backs.
•    Because “war” is so overused, cynics might regard talk of a “war on Christians” as just another bit of spin, a slogan cooked up to serve someone’s political interests.
Even  with  those cautions acknowledged, the  question remains: What other word are we supposed to use? We’re talking about a massive, worldwide pattern of violence and oppression directed against a specific group of people, often explicitly understood by its perpetrators as part of a broader cultural and spiritual struggle. Granted, slapping the label “war” on political disagreements is often an exaggeration. By the same token, feckless reluctance to call something a “war” when it plainly is can also be counterproductive. Among other things, failure to call this a “war” can inhibit people from facing the situation with the necessary sense of urgency.
Although reasonable observers might  be  willing to  accept that widespread rel...

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Descrizione libro Random House Inc, United Kingdom, 2014. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. 234 x 156 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. One of the most respected journalists in the United States and the bestselling author of The Future Church uses his unparalleled knowledge of world affairs and religious insight to investigate the troubling worldwide persecution of Christians. From Iraq and Egypt to Sudan and Nigeria, from Indonesia to the Indian subcontinent, Christians in the early 21st century are the world s most persecuted religious group. According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of violations of religious freedom in the world today are directed against Christians. In effect, our era is witnessing the rise of a new generation of martyrs. Underlying the global war on Christians is the demographic reality that more than two-thirds of the world s 2.3 billion Christians now live outside the West, often as a beleaguered minority up against a hostile majority-- whether it s Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, Hindu radicalism in India, or state-imposed atheism in China and North Korea. In Europe and North America, Christians face political and legal challenges to religious freedom. Allen exposes the deadly threats and offers investigative insight into what is and can be done to stop these atrocities. This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early 21st century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: The global war on Christians, writes John Allen. We re not talking about a metaphorical war on religion in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it s okay to erect a nativity set on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. However counter-intuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as a powerful and sometimes oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence. This book looks to shatter that silence. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780770437350

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Descrizione libro Random House Inc, United Kingdom, 2014. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. 234 x 156 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. One of the most respected journalists in the United States and the bestselling author of The Future Church uses his unparalleled knowledge of world affairs and religious insight to investigate the troubling worldwide persecution of Christians. From Iraq and Egypt to Sudan and Nigeria, from Indonesia to the Indian subcontinent, Christians in the early 21st century are the world s most persecuted religious group. According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of violations of religious freedom in the world today are directed against Christians. In effect, our era is witnessing the rise of a new generation of martyrs. Underlying the global war on Christians is the demographic reality that more than two-thirds of the world s 2.3 billion Christians now live outside the West, often as a beleaguered minority up against a hostile majority-- whether it s Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, Hindu radicalism in India, or state-imposed atheism in China and North Korea. In Europe and North America, Christians face political and legal challenges to religious freedom. Allen exposes the deadly threats and offers investigative insight into what is and can be done to stop these atrocities. This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early 21st century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: The global war on Christians, writes John Allen. We re not talking about a metaphorical war on religion in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it s okay to erect a nativity set on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. However counter-intuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as a powerful and sometimes oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence. This book looks to shatter that silence. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780770437350

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