The attacks on Christians around the world are a conundrum for our news reporters who need people to fit easily into stereotypes. We can have angry Pakistani muslims (men), or grieving Pakistani muslims (women), but Pakistani Christians talking about forgiveness? Sorry, there are Christians in Pakistan? They don’t look very Christian…
We can have Syrian muslims fighting the bad Syrian government forces, but Syrian Christians fighting for Assad against “the West”? For their own safety? What about Syrian churches being sacked? As one Syrian Christian said, in a BBC report that did include them: “We gave you St Paul, and you give us bombs?” They gave us Paul? Surely he was a white European? They don’t look very Christian…
And then there’s Egypt, another confusing melting-pot of Muslims and Christians who have co-existed for centuries quite happily, and are now being drawn against each other as Islamists attack churches and Christian communities. Why? In all 3 situations, a lot of it is because the indigenous Christians, despite being indigenous and not westerners, are considered guilty-by-association with the West, namely America.
How does that make us feel? Does it and should it affect our policies? Now, I realise we shouldn’t just care about minority groups under attack because they are Christians and ‘we’ are Christians. But we do feel an affinity with others who share our faith in Jesus, and it should bother us. The media find it hard, I think, because stories about Muslims are about an ‘other’ therefore there is less overt bias (except there is), but stories about Christians are about an ‘us’, no matter how secular we think our country is.
So to avoid looking sympathetic, or even interested, in the crazees who still ‘do’ religion in our country, they ignore it; and to avoid challenging their own stereotypes about what Christians look like (white, sensible, dull), they brush over the different ones (Pakistani, Syrian, Egyptian). Which is crazy, as the latter 2 having had Christians longer than our country has existed.
It got me thinking what difference it would make if these things were happening here. More than 80 people were killed – in church, by 2 suicide bombers – in the Peshawar attack in Pakistan That is more than double our entire congregation. What would we do if the church up the road had been decimated by a suicide bombing? Would it make a difference to us? Would it suddenly make going to church an act of political rebellion, or an impossibility? How would it affect you?
This isn’t meant to trivialise it, but to make us think. Christians around the world suffer terribly, sometimes because of the action – or inaction – of us and our governments. Makes you think, doesn’t it.
FOr more information about persecution of Christians across the world, see Open Doors UK.