Solidarity with the World’s Persecuted Christian Minorities | Dr. Rakib Ehsan
While the UK’s religious minorities have considerable freedom to practise their religion in Britain’s pluralistic liberal democracy, this is far removed from the experience of Christian minorities in other parts of the world.
It was only last year, that the devastating Islamist-inspired Easter Sunday terrorist attacks took place in Sri Lanka, taking the lives of hundreds of Christian worshippers. The co-ordinated string of bombings represented the deadliest violence Sri Lanka has witnessed since the end of the country’s civil war in 2009. Along with blasts at three hotels located in the capital of Colombo, suicide bombers unleashed their deadly acts of terror on three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa, and Colombo’s Kochchikade district, during Easter Sunday services. A local militant Islamist group with links to Islamic State, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, was implicated and subsequently designated by Sri Lankan government as a terrorist organisation, following the attacks.
The Indian subcontinent is no stranger to depraved acts of Islamist-inspired terrorism on its Christian minorities. The Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka followed the 2016 Easter Sunday suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan. That attack was carried out by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a terrorist group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban. This was preceded by the twin suicide bomb attacks on a church in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, which killed scores of Christian worshippers.
Due to the aggressive rise of Hindutva ideology under current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has ranked India’s ‘persecution severity’ at Tier 2 – falling into the same tier as Iraq and Afghanistan. Hindu nationalist groups in recent times have ramped up their efforts to ‘saffronise’ India through violence, intimidation and harassment towards non-Hindus – including the country’s Christian minority.
Other parts of Asia, there are growing forms of institutionalised anti-Christian prejudice. In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world, and where the ISIS-orchestrated Surabaya church bombings took place in May 2018, a number of local and provincial governments have established regulations and bylaws which discriminate against Christians and other religious minorities.
Elsewhere in the world, Nigeria is still struggling to get to grips with the Islamist terror organisation Boko Haram, based in the north-east of the country. Among a wave of anti-Christian attacks, Boko Haram was suspected to have been behind the 2012 Easter bombings in Kaduna, which killed 38 people. Another West African nation, Burkina Faso, is struggling to get to grips with a jihadist insurgency which is wreaking havoc in the north of the country. A recent Islamist-inspired terrorist attack on a Protestant church during Sunday services, in the village of Pansi in Yagha province, claimed the lives of 24 Christians, including the church pastor.
All of this gives rise to an all-important question: have our politicians, both in the UK and more broadly the West, been robust enough in highlighting the violent persecution of Christian minorities in other parts of the world – such as the Indian subcontinent and West Africa?
The reaction of some political figures to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka was puzzling to say the least. Affectionate expressions of solidarity with persecuted Christian communities have been missing. The Christians killed in their own churches have been referred to by former US President Barack Obama and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and as ‘Easter worshippers’. Despite the clearly sophisticated, well-planned nature of the terrorist attacks, which very much had the aim of killing a large number of Christians, the British Conservative Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May – a vicar’s daughter – merely referred to them as ‘acts of violence’.
While mainstream politicians have been reluctant to identify the perpetrators and victims of such attacks, I am not. These were nothing but cold-blooded Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks, designed to cause untold misery and suffering, on the holiest of days for Christian worshippers who were slain in their own churches.
Western metropolitan politicians, sceptical of the value of traditional Christian norms to their own societies, have been deeply uncomfortable with standing up for the rights of Christian minorities which are routinely subjected to violence and intimidation. In addition to this, elected politicians have often been encouraged to shelve their Christian beliefs and their devotion to God in the public realm. It is perfectly plausible that politically-correct ‘progressives’ are also contaminated by their bigotry of low expectations – that they run the risk of alienating their Muslim communities by calling out the Islamist-led persecution of Christian minorities.
As a British Muslim – a member of a religious minority which is afforded considerable freedom to practise their faith in the UK – my heart goes out to Christian minorities in other parts of the world, who cannot do so without fear of being harassed, abused, and indeed killed.
May we all do more for their plight and suffering to become part of mainstream political and social discourse.
Have a blessed Easter Sunday.
Photo by Liesbet Sanders on Flickr.