A NEW CENTURY OF CHRISTIAN MARTYRDOM: THE UNTOLD MIDDLE EASTERN CRISIS

January 11, 2010 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

by Srdja Trifkovic
Link to original article

A book that relates the untold story of the murder of 45 million
Christians in the 20th century alone has caused controversy in Italy.
The author of The New Persecuted: Inquiries into Anti-Christian
Intolerance in the New Century of Martyrs, Antonio Socci, has been
accused that by raising the issue of Christian suffering in the Muslim
world he “demonizes Islam.”

Socci provides evidence that in the past 2,000 years some 70 million
Christians have been killed primarily or exclusively for the reason of
their faith, two-thirds in the past 100 years alone, with Joseph Stalin
as the chief culprit. He says that an average of 160,000 Christians
have been killed every year since 1990, the vast majority by Muslims in
the Third World. Chronicling attacks, pogroms and wars in East Timor,
Indonesia, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, India, and the Balkans, Socci
identifies Islamic extremism as the main danger. And yet, says he,
“This global persecution of Christianity is still in progress but in
most cases is ignored by the mass media and Christians in the west.”

Western indifference to Christian suffering, documented by Antonio
Socci, is well illustrated by the recent standoff at the Church of the
Nativity in Bethlehem, one of the holiest Christian sites in the Holy
Land, which was re-consecrated last month after being occupied by Arab
gunmen and besieged by the Israeli army for 38 days. While extensively
covered because of its photogenic value and its potential for further
bloodshed, the stand-off has caused hardly a ripple in the Western
world on what should be the obvious grounds for media scrutiny and
public concern: the misuse and abuse of a Christian shrine by warring
non-Christians in pursuit of their political objectives. The Bethlehem
episode is thus illustrative of two parallel processes overlooked in
the current Middle Eastern crisis: the apparently terminal decline of
the Christian remnant in the Middle East after two millennia of
precarious and mostly painful existence, and the remarkable
indifference of the post-Christian Western world to its impending
demise.

Already by their choice of the stage for what soon became a propaganda
exercise the Muslim gunmen who occupied the church desecrated the
basilica built on the site of the grotto where Jesus Christ is believed
to have been born. They ate the food they found on the premises until
it ran out, while more than 150 civilians went hungry. They consumed
alcoholic drinks that they found in priests’ quarters, undeterred by
the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol. They tore up Bibles up for toilet
paper. They turned one corner of the ancient church into an impromptu
mosque. They even attempted to bury seven of their comrades, who were
subsequently killed by Israeli snipers, inside the church or on its
grounds-obviously intending to turn one of the holiest Christian
shrines into a place of Islamic pilgrimage to the fallen “martyrs.”

It may be worth noting that when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount,
two years ago, the world reacted angrily to what was interpreted as a
gesture calculated to inflame the Muslims, and Palestinians treated his
mere presence near the al-Aqsa mosque as sufficiently provocative to
justify a new intifada. Their double standards and cynicism are
breathtaking, but they were not the only ones to treat Christian
shrines with contempt.

Two weeks before the siege of the Church of the Nativity, as Israeli
forces stormed into Bethlehem, an Israeli tank shell hit the facade of
the nearby Holy Family Church, in a complex with an orphanage, hospital
and hostel. The soldiers then fired, from fifty yards’ distance, at the
statue of the Virgin atop the Holy Family Church. The statue lost its
left arm and its face was disfigured. The Israeli army expressed regret
and promised investigation, but this did not look like an accidental
shot: no terrorist could possibly hide behind the figure on the
pinnacle of the hospital church. The story was reported by Reuters, and
a picture taken by an AP photographer. It was available to the world
media but ignored.

These two incidents illustrate the predicament of the dwindling
Christian remnant in the Middle East. Once thriving Christian
communities are now minorities squeezed between the warring Jews and
Muslims who may hate each other but all too often share their aversion
to Christianity. Within Israel the indigenous Christians, as Arabs, are
regarded as indistinguishable from Palestinian Muslims, and have
suffered accordingly. In 1948 two-thirds of the Palestinian Christians
were driven from their homes with the creation of a Jewish state.
Within Arafat’s Palestinian Authority the Christians are viewed with
distrust as non-Muslim. They resent Israeli incursions and occupation
as much as their Muslim neighbors, but they also feel uncomfortable
amid the tide of Islamic radicalism-symbolized in the rise of Hamas-
that has engulfed the Palestinian community. They are also deliberately
exposed to Israeli reprisals by their Muslim compatriots: in the West
Bank city of Beit Jala Muslim gunmen chose the rooftops of Christian
homes as sites from which to fire on neighboring Jerusalem.

Institutionalized or covert discrimination to which Christians are
subjected in Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon, accompanied by
occasional eruptions of anti-Christian violence by the Muslim majority
in the last two countries, have contributed to an exodus that threatens
to eradicate the believers in Christ in the lands of his birth and
life.

At the outset of the Islamic conquests under Muhammad’s successors all
of these lands were 100 percent Christian. At the outset of the Ottoman
rule they had a Christian plurality, and in Palestine and Lebanon the
outright majority. Under the British Mandate, Palestine officially was
a Christian country, with Bethlehem having a population that was 90
percent Christian. Today they are literally disappearing. Among almost
three million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem,
only 50,000 Christians remain. Within the pre-1967 borders of Israel
there are six million people; only 2 percent are Christians. In the
city of Jerusalem the Christian population has declined from 45,000 in
1940 to a few thousand today. At the current rate of decline, the
Christian population will be a fraction of one percent in the year 2020
and there will be no living church in the land of Christ. It is a cruel
irony that the plight of indigenous Christians remained invisible to
hundreds of thousands of Christians from Europe and North America-from
mainstream churches and fringe groups-who descended on the Holy Land to
mark the 2,000th anniversary of their faith.

If the Jewish or Muslim population of America or Western Europe were to
start declining at a similar rate, there would be an outcry from their
co-religionists all over the world. There would be government-funded
programs to establish the causes and provide remedies. The endangered
minority would be awarded instant victim status and be celebrated as
such by the media and the academe. By contrast, when the President of
the United States visited Jerusalem in October 1994, he was steps away
from the most sacred Christian shrines but did not visit any of them.
He did not meet a single representative of the Christian community that
remained invisible to him. Eight years later, as busloads of American
evangelicals still come to the Western Wall in pursuit of their dream
of a rebuilt temple that will provide an eschatological shortcut
through history, the remnants of that community are on the verge of
extinction.

UNDER THE PROPHET’S SWORD

At the time of Muhammad’s birth Christianity had covered, outside
Europe, the ancient Roman province of Asia extending across the
Caucasus to the Caspian Sea, Syria with the Holy Land, and a wide belt
of North Africa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Christians numbered over thirty million by A.D. 311, in spite of
imperial persecution that often entailed martyrdom. Most of them lived
not in Europe but in Asia Minor and Africa, the home of many famous
Christian fathers and martyrs, starting with St. Paul of Tarsus, such
as St. Augustine, Polycarp of Smyrna, Tertullian of Carthage, Clement
of Alexandria, Chrysostom of Antioch, Origen of Tyre, or Cyprian of
Carthage. The Seven Churches of Revelation were all in Asia Minor.
(Smyrna was the last of these, and kept her light burning until 1922,
when the Turks destroyed it, along with its Christian population.)

Between Muhammad’s death in 632 and the second siege of Vienna, just
over a thousand years later, Islam expanded-at first rapidly, then
intermittently-at the expense of everything and everyone in the way of
its warriors. Unleashed as the militant faith of a nomadic war-band,
Islam turned its boundary with the outside world into a perpetual war
zone. When Muslims conquered the hitherto Christian lands of the Middle
East in the 7th century the subject peoples were not immediately aware
of the momentous quality of what had come to pass. For many dissident
Christian groups that had been denounced as heretical in Europe, it
seemed preferable at first to be ruled by largely absentee non-
Christian overlords who cared only about taxes and did not feel
strongly one way or another about the finer points of Christology.

Slaughters did occur in the initial wave of conquest: during the Muslim
invasion of Syria in 634 thousands of Christians were massacred; in
Mesopotamia between 635 and 642 monasteries were ransacked and the
monks and villagers slain; while in Egypt the towns of Behnesa, Fayum,
Nikiu and Aboit were put to the sword. The inhabitants of Cilicia were
taken into captivity. In Armenia, the entire population of Euchaita was
wiped out. The Muslim invaders sacked and pillaged Cyprus and then
established their rule by a “great massacre.” In North Africa Tripoli
was pillaged in 643 by Amr, who forced the Jews and Christians to hand
over their women and children as slaves to the Arab army. They were
told that they could deduct the value of their enslaved family from the
poll-tax, the jizya. Carthage was razed to the ground and most of its
inhabitants killed. Nevertheless, since dead bodies paid no taxes,
while the captives were an economic asset, once the conquerors’ rule
was firmly established a degree of normalcy was reestablished at the
communal level.

For a long time the outcome of the early onslaught was in doubt. The
first wave of attacks on Christendom almost captured Constantinople
when that city was still far and away the important center of the
Christian world. The Greeks stood their ground against Islam for
another six centuries. But the Muslims also conquered Spain, and had
they gone further the Kuran -in Gibbon’s memorable phrase-might have
been “taught in the schools of Oxford” to a circumcised people: the
Muslims crossed the Pyrenees, promising to stable their horses in St.
Peter’s at Rome, but were at last defeated by Charles Martel at Tours,
exactly a century after the prophet’s death. This defeat arrested their
western conquests and saved Europe.

The last attempt in pre-postmodern times, going through the Balkans,
took the Sultan’s janissaries more than halfway from Constantinople to
Dover (1683). On both occasions the tide was checked, but its
subsequent rolling back took decades, even centuries.

The Crusades were but a temporary setback to Islamic expansion, and the
source of endless arguments that sought to establish some moral
equivalence between Muslims and Christians at first, and eventually to
elevate the former to victimhood and condemn the latter as aggressors.
Far from being wars of aggression, the Crusades were a belated military
response of Christian Europe to over three centuries of Muslim
aggression against Christian lands, the systemic mistreatment of the
indigenous Christian population of those lands, and harassment of
Christian pilgrims. The postmodern myth, promoted by Islamic
propagandists and supported by some self-hating Westerners-notably in
the academe-claims that the peaceful Muslims, native to the Holy Land,
were forced to take up arms in defense against European-Christian
aggression. This myth takes AD 1095 as its starting point, but it
ignores the preceding centuries, starting with the early caliphs, when
Muslim armies swept through the Byzantine Empire, conquering about two-
thirds of the Christian world of that time.

INTOLERANCE CODIFIED

On the eve of the First Crusade the prominent Islamic scholar Abu Ala
Al-Mawardi prepared the formal blueprint for the Islamic government,
based on the Kuran, the Tradition, and the practice of the previous
four centuries of conquest. It reiterated the division the world into
the House of Islam, where umma has been established, and the House of
War inhabited by Harbis, that is, the rest of the world. The House of
Islam is in a state of permanent war with the lands that surround it;
it can be interrupted by temporary truces, but peace will only come
with the completion of global conquest. The progression was from Dar al
Sulh-when the Muslims are a minority community, and need to adopt
temporarily a peaceful attitude in order to deceive their neighbors
(Mecca before Muhammad’s move to Medina is the model for which the
Muslim diaspora in the Western world provides contemporary example)-to
Dar al Harb, when the territory of the infidel becomes a war zone by
definition. This happens as soon as the Muslim side feels strong enough
to dispense with pretense.

The example was provided by Muhammad, who accepted a truce with Mecca
when he was in an inferior position but broke it as soon as his
recuperated strength allowed, and offered his pagan compatriots the
choice of conversion or death. In Europe today the early signs of this
forthcoming stage, amounting to a low-intensity civil war, are visible
in ethnic disturbances in English and French cities, when young
English-born Pakistanis or French-born North Africans venture out from
their no-go areas. The final objective all along is Dar al Islam, where
Muslims dominate and infidels are at best tolerated, at worst expelled
or killed. This applies even to “the people of the book”:

Declare war upon those to whom the Scriptures were revealed but believe
neither in God nor the Last Day, and who do not forbid that which God
and His Apostles have forbidden, and who refuse to acknowledge the true
religion until they pay the poll-tax without reservation and are
totally subjugated. The Jews claim that Ezra is a son of God, and the
Christians say, ‘the Messiah is a son of God.’ Those are their claims
that do indeed resemble the sayings of the Infidels of Old. May God do
battle with them!

The Muslims are obliged to wage struggle against unbelievers and may
contemplate tactical ceasefires, but never its complete abandonment
short of the unbelievers’ submission. This is the real meaning of
Jihad. Indeed, in certain contexts and in certain times it may also
signify “inner striving” and “spiritual struggle,” but to generations
of Muslims before our time-and to an overwhelming majority of believers
who are our contemporaries-the meaning of Jihad as the obligatory and
permanent war against non-Muslims has not changed since Al-Mawardi’s
time. At all times, according to Allah (i.e. Muhammad), “Those who
believe fight in the cause of God.” For the fallen and victorious
alike, the rewards are instant and plentiful.

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Entry filed under: Christianity, Christians, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Education, Family, Fifth Column, Islam, Islamic History, Islamic Slavery, Jihad Prevention, Modern Day Islam, New World Order, Personal, Politics, Random, Religion, Sharia Law, Uncategorized, War, World History. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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