Christianity Under Attack; No One Cares





christians

ALEXANDRIA, VA — In late September, two suicide bombers detonated explosives outside of a historic church in northwestern Pakistan, killing 85 people and wounded another 140 people. The bombing was the deadliest single attack on Christians that church leaders could recall in the country’s 66-year-old history.

The attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar occurred as worshippers were leaving after services to get a free meal of rice on the front lawn. A wing of the Pakistani Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Angry Christians blocked roads around the country to protest the bombings. “Our people have been killed. Nobody seems to care about us. No one apprehended the killers,” said Aqeel Masih, one of the protestors. Paul Bhatti, the head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (and whose brother, a federal minister, was killed by Islamic militants in 2011), said “Our state and our intelligence agencies are so weak that anyone can kill anyone any time.”

Michael Javed, a Christian leader in Karachi who runs several schools, said the attack left many Christians in the country feeling powerless and unprotected. Christians make up one to two percent of Pakistan’s population; about 97 percent of the country’s residents identify themselves as Muslim. Recently, Javed said, he got a call from a man who threatened to “drown my school” and kill his family if he did not pay a ransom or leave the area.

In Egypt, recent months have seen perhaps the worst anti-Christian violence in 700 years. Egypt has the largest Christian population in the Middle East, totaling 8 to 12 million people. But because Christian Copts make up only about 10 to 15 percent of Egypt’s estimated 80 million people, they have lived for many years as second-class citizens, subjected to attacks on churches and villages and the abduction and forced Islamic conversion of Christian women compelled to marry Muslim men. Such abuse took place even under the secular regime of Hosni Mubarak, but it became much worse under the rule of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt is as old as Christianity itself. It dates to when Joseph, with his young wife and child, fled into that land to escape Herod’s sword. Its history continued when St. Mark the Evangelist established the Church of Egypt and the school of Alexandria sometime around 48 A.D. Christianity thrived as the predominant religion for 600 years. In 640 A.D., Arab forces invaded Egypt. Within a year, Cairo had been conquered; and by 647 A.D., the entire country had fallen to Muslim rule. The first Islamic ruler, Amr, let every Christian decide whether to remain Christian or convert to Islam. He understood that Muhammed had recognized Jews and Christians as “people of the book,” although inferior in status to Islamic believers.

For nearly 13 centuries, the two religions managed to coexist. In 1980, Egypt officially recognized Islam as the state religion, and relations steadily declined. Asia News lists 58 Coptic and Evangelical churches, convents, schools, and monasteries that were attacked and burned from August 14-17. Perpetrators were said to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In August — for the first time in 1,600 years — the Orthodox monastery of the Virgin Mary in Degla canceled Sunday prayers.

In Syria, 2.5 million Christians constitute about 10 percent of the population. They enjoyed some protection under the secular (but brutal) Assad dynasty. But as jihadi groups extend their territorial control, the past protection of Christians is often the cause of their current persecution by Sunnis who seek to impose Shari’a law wherever they can. Christians have been targeted and killed by rebels. Early in September, rebels attacked the ancient Christian town of Maaloula. Most of the residents have fled the town, one of the last places where Aramaic–the language of Jesus– is still spoken by Christians and some Muslims. In Maaloula, the rebel attack was led by members of the Nusra Front, a group with ties to al Qaeda in Iraq. The rebels referred to the local Christian community as “infidels.” Mother Pelagia Sayaf, who is in charge of the Mar Taqla monastery, said, “If Maaloula survives, it will be a miracle.”

Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs, an advocacy group for persecuted Christians around the world, reported that in Syria, “We see Christians being targeted. There are Christian villages where rebels have come in, they’ve announced from loudspeakers, ‘Christians, you have 48 hours to get out of the village, or else,’ and literally the Christians pack what they can carry and they leave their homes, leave their villages, because they’re in fear of their lives. Thousands of Christians are leaving Syria, saying there is no future for them.”

In Iraq, terrified Christians are leaving the country in huge numbers. Iraqi Christians at one time numbered 1.5 million; today, fewer than 200,000 remain. In December 2012, Civitas: The Institute for the Study of Civil Society, a British think tank, released a report summarizing the very real possibility that the radicals could completely eradicate Christianity from the land of its birth. The report suggested that the widespread persecution is ignored by much of the media and Western politicians because of fears that they will be accused of “racism.” According to the report, Westerners have failed “to appreciate that in defense of the wider concept of human rights, religious freedom is the ‘canary in the mine.’”

Writing in the British magazine The Spectator, Ed West noted, “The last month and a half has seen perhaps the worst anti-Christian violence in Egypt in seven centuries, with dozens of churches torched. Yet the Western media has mainly focused on army assaults of the Muslim Brotherhood, and no major political figure has said anything about the sectarian attacks.”

In mid-September, a meeting was held at the National Liberal Club in London to discuss the question of why the American and British press have ignored or underreported this persecution of Christians. One of the speakers, Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom, reported that when President Mubarak of Egypt was overthrown, one U.S. government agency assessed the Muslim Brotherhood as “essentially secular.”

Historian Tom Holland sadly declared that we are now seeing the extinction of Christianity and other minority faiths in the Middle East. He pointed out that this is the culmination of the long process that began in the Balkans in the late 19th century; reached its horrific European climax in 1939-1945; and continued with the Greeks of Alexandria, the Mizrahi Jews, and most recently, the Chaldo-Assyrian Christians of Iraq.

Ed West reported, “The saddest audience question was from a young man who I’m guessing was Egyptian-British. He asked, ‘Where was world Christianity when this happened?’ Nowhere. Watching The X Factor. Debating intersectionality. Or just too frightened of controversy to raise Muslim-Christian violence.”

Bishop Angaelos, leader of Copts in Britain, expressed disappointment at the response from other religious leaders, saying that if Christians burned down 10 synagogues or mosques, let alone 50, they would be going over to express their sympathy and shame.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Christians represented 20 percent of the population of the Middle East and North Africa a century ago — but only 4 percent today.

One of the few voices speaking out against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East is Britain’s former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, who referred to what is happening at the present time as “the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing.”

Rabbi Sacks compared the fate of Christians in the Middle East with that of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. He quoted Martin Luther King: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is THE REVOLUTION LOBBY (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.

 

The Conservative Curmudgeon is copyright (c) 2013 by Allan C. Brownfeld and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, http://www.fgfbooks.com. All rights reserved.





The Death Of Trayvon Martin Has Unleashed A Wave Of Demogoguery

Trayvon Martin Protest 6 SC The Death of Trayvon Martin Has Unleashed A Wave of Demogoguery

ALEXANDRIA, VA — The death of Trayvon Martin is, of course, a devastating event for his family. That a 17-year-old boy returning from a visit to a nearby store for a snack should have his life taken is difficult to understand and accept. On many levels, the incident was, as President Obama has said, “tragic.”

Still, this event has provoked demagoguery that ignores the complex facts of the case itself and has provided an opportunity for provocateurs to proclaim that race relations in America are similar to those of the segregated Old South, as if the notable progress we have made in recent years had never happened.

The Deceptions
Consider some of the things we have heard.

* Jesse Jackson referred to the trial as “Old South Justice.” NAACP President Benjamin Jealous declared, “This will confirm for many that the only problem with the New South is it occupies the same time and space as the Old South.” He invoked the memory of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was killed in 1955 after supposedly whistling at a white woman “and whose murderers were acquitted.” An article in The Washington Post drew parallels between this case and that of Emmett Till, as well as the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, and the 1933 case of the Scottsboro Boys, nine young black men accused of raping two white girls.

* “Trayvon Benjamin Martin is dead because he and other black boys and men like him are seen not as a person but a problem,” the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnick, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, told a congregation once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

* In Sanford, Florida, the Rev. Valerie J. Houston drew shouts of support and outrage at Allen Chapel A.M.E. as she denounced, “the racism and the injustice that pollute the air in America. Lord, I thank you for sending Trayvon to reveal the injustice, God, that lives in Sanford.”

* One of those who organized demonstrations against the verdict and promoted the idea that our society is little better than it was in the years of segregation is the Rev. Al Sharpton, always ready to pour fuel on a fire, and now provided by MSNBC with a nationwide pulpit. How many today remember Sharpton’s history of stirring racial strife? In 1987, he created a media frenzy in the case of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager who claimed she was raped by a group of white police officers. A grand jury found that Brawley had lied about the event in Wappingers Falls, New York, and the case was dropped. The event that Sharpton used to indict our society for widespread racism never happened.

* In 1991, Sharpton exacerbated tensions between blacks and Orthodox Jews in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. A three-day riot, fueled by Sharpton’s inflammatory statements, erupted when a Guyanese boy died after being struck by a car driven by a Jewish man. At the boy’s funeral, Sharpton complained about “diamond cutters” in the neighborhood in what a Brandeis University historian described as the most anti-Semitic incident in U.S. history. Two men died and three were critically injured before order was restored. Clearly, Al Sharpton does not come to a discussion of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case with clean hands.
The Testimony and Evidence
Few of those urging demonstrations against the alleged “racism” in the jury verdict finding Mr. Zimmerman not guilty have spent very much time examining the law and the trial itself.

Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, claimed that he shot Mr. Martin only after the teenager knocked him to the ground, punched him, straddled him, and slammed his head into the concrete. The murder charge required a showing that Zimmerman was full of “ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent” when he shot Martin. But prosecutors had little evidence to back up that claim, according to most legal experts. They could point only to his words during his call to the police dispatcher the night he spotted Martin walking in the rain with his sweatshirt’s hood up and grew suspicious. Zimmerman appeared calm during the call and did not describe Martin’s race until he was asked.

Lawyers point to what they said were errors by the prosecution. The testimony of Officer Chris Serino, the Sanford Police Department’s chief investigator on the case, for example, told the jury he believed Zimmerman’s account was truthful. Dr. Shiping Bao, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Martin, came across, legal experts report, befuddled, shuffling through his notes because he could remember very little. “It was horrific,” said Richard Sharpstein, a prominent Miami criminal defense lawyer. “It was a deadly blow to this case because the case depended on forensic evidence to contradict or disprove George Zimmerman’s story.”

The performance was the opposite of that by Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a nationally recognized forensic pathologist, who took the stand for the defense. Dr. Di Maio said the evidence and injuries to Zimmerman were consistent with the defense’s account that Trayvon Martin was leaning over the defendant when he was shot. The evidence of Zimmerman’s injuries may have helped his case, but it was not legally necessary. He needed to show only that he feared great bodily harm or death when he pulled out his gun, which he was carrying legally. “Classic self-defense,” said his attorney.

Voices of Reason
It is quite different to have sympathy for the Martin family — to regret the incident, or to be critical of Florida’s laws about concealed weapons or its “Stand Your Ground” law, which never entered the legal proceeding — than to argue that the law was not properly applied in this case. The prosecution failed to prove Zimmerman guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Hence, the not-guilty verdict.

Many black commentators regret that Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Ben Jealous, and others have made this case about race. Columnist Armstrong Williams declares, “… the Zimmerman case was not about race. Mr. Zimmerman is Hispanic, normally one of the protected minorities in America. In order to make the story about race, the New York Times and some other media outlets called him a ‘white’ Hispanic (his father is white and his mother is of Peruvian heritage).

“When was the last time anybody in America heard a Hispanic called a ‘white Hispanic?’ Calling Zimmerman a ‘white Hispanic’ is like calling Adam Clayton Powell or Barack Obama a ‘white black.’ But the media needed to create hysterics and so injected race into the equation to make it more salable to the American people as a political circus. After all, who cares about two white men or two black men in a fight that results in death.”

In Williams’ view, “A young man was killed by another young man under circumstances where there is so much racial static in the background that it’s difficult for many to be remotely objective…. Compare the reaction of the O.J. Simpson verdict by many American blacks to the reaction to the Zimmerman acquittal. In both cases, the prosecution did not make its case beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant. Yet blacks generally cheered the result in the Simpson case, while viewing the Zimmerman verdict as a travesty of justice. In our court system of trial by jury, you can’t have it both ways. There cannot be a different standard for a white man killing a black man than for a black man killing a white man and a white woman.”
Liberal columnist Richard Cohen writes, “I don’t like what George Zimmerman did, and I hate that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize. I don’t know whether Zimmerman is a racist. But I’m tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that, for recognizing the reality of urban crime in the U.S., I am a racist.”

Cohen argues that, “What Zimmerman did was wrong. It was not, by a verdict of his peers, a crime. Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? This does not mean that racism has disappeared, and some judgments are not the product of individual stereotyping. It does mean, though, that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent 78 percent of the shooting suspects — almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.”

New York City’s Program
Those statistics represent the justification for New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, which amounts to a kind of racial profiling. “After all,” writes Cohen, “if young black male are your shooters, then it ought to be young black males whom the police stop and frisk. Still, common sense and common decency, not to mention the law, insist on other variables, such as suspicious behavior. Even still, race is a factor without a doubt. It would be senseless for the police to be stopping Danish tourists in Times Square just to make the statistics look good.”

Last year, the New York City Police Department recorded 419 homicides, nearly a 20 percent decrease from the year before and the lowest rate per 100,000 residents since the department began keeping statistics. If New York had the same homicide rate as Washington, D.C., it would be investigating 800 more murder cases for the year. If it had Detroit’s statistics, nearly 4,000 more New Yorkers would be murdered every year.

Editorially, The Washington Post states, “Without question, the Big Apple is doing something right.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Chief Raymond Kelley say the stop-and-frisk policy has saved 5,000 lives in the past 10 years. “New York has never been safer in its modern era,” the mayor says.

The policy, of course, is controversial and is the subject of a federal action lawsuit because the vast majority of those stopped are young men of color. Mayor Bloomberg responds: “They keep saying, ‘Oh, it’s a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.’ That may be, but it’s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murder. In that case, incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”

Expressing the anguish of many who hate all forms of racism but are not prepared to turn a blind eye to the reality of urban crime, Richard Cohen concludes: “I wish I had a solution to this problem. If I were a young black male and were stopped just on account of my appearance, I would feel violated. If the police are abusing their authority and using race as the only reason, that has got to stop. But if they ignore race, then they are fools and ought to go into another line of work.”

Another liberal commentator, columnist Ruth Marcus, was particularly critical of those who compared Trayvon Martin with Emmett Till: “The comparison is unfair. No doubt race played a part in Martin’s death…. But there is no evidence that race played a role in Zimmerman’s acquittal. If anything, the racial undertones worked against Zimmerman, increasing public pressure on prosecutors to bring the most serious — and, in hindsight the most difficult to support — charges against him. Contrast the Zimmerman trial with that of Till’s murderers. The courtroom was segregated. No hotel would rent rooms to black observers. The local sheriff welcomed black spectators to the courtroom with what was described as a cheerful use of the vilest racial epithets. The New South is not perfect, but it is not the Old.”

The Greater Tragedy
What is rarely noted is the fact that vast majority of the victims of young black men who kill are other young black men and women. Those engaged in calling for marches and vigils to express outrage over the verdict in the Zimmerman case say hardly a word about the black-on-black crime that plagues the nation’s inner cities. In an interview with black journalist Juan Williams, comedian Bill Cosby noted that the NAACP’s headquarters is in Baltimore, a city with one of the highest murder rates in the nation. “I’ve never once heard the NAACP say, ‘Let’s do something about this,’” said Cosby, adding “They never marched or organized or even criticized the criminals.”

The over-heated declarations that our current society is similar to that in which Emmett Till was murdered in 1955 — or in which the Scottsboro Boys were convicted in 1933 — turns reality on its head. Al Sharpton doesn’t really believe it. Jesse Jackson knows it is untrue. Ben Jealous is unwilling to give up the public spotlight he receives by portraying such a false picture.

Those of us old enough to have lived through the years of segregation remember an era of segregated schools, segregated bus and train stations, “white” and “black” restrooms (visit the Pentagon and see the proliferation of rest rooms that were constructed in the years when it was illegal in Virginia for men and women of different races to use the same facilities), and water fountains reserved for “whites” and “colored.” In many parts of the country, blacks could not vote or sit on juries. Black travelers never knew when they would be able to stop for meals. There was no pretense that racial equality of any kind existed.

The Future Waits
Today, we live in an imperfect society, but one in which all citizens, regardless of race, have equal rights. It is against the law to discriminate on the basis of race. Men and women can go as far as their individual abilities can take them. Black Americans hold every conceivable position in our society — from CEO of major corporations to chief of police in major cities to university president to governor — to President of the United States.

None of this would be true if ours were indeed a “racist” society. This is not to say that in a society of more than 300 million people, examples of racism cannot sometimes be found. Using the trial of George Zimmerman to say that it is still 1933 or 1955, as some are now doing, is to paint a picture of contemporary society that cannot be recognized.

When it comes to the status of race relations in America today, who are we going to believe, shrill voices such as Al Sharpton, or our own eyes? The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case has brought out the worst in some. The rest of us must move resolutely forward, continuing on the path of creating a genuinely color-blind society, which has long been the goal of men and women of good will of all races.

 

The Conservative Curmudgeon is copyright (c) 2013 by Allan C. Brownfeld and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, http://www.fgfbooks.com. All rights reserved. This column may be forwarded or re-posted if credit is given to the author and fgfBooks.com.

 

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is THE REVOLUTION LOBBY (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.

See his biographical sketch and photo at: http://www.fgfbooks.com/AllanBrownfeld/aBrownfeld-bio.html