Thursday, May 24, 2012

Islamist Persecution of Non-Muslims . . .

Benedict Rogers

Since Ayaan Hirsi Ali's February report in Newsweek about Islamism's global war on Christians, I've noticed that this issue is getting more press. Just two days ago, I read in the International Herald Tribune of "Indonesia's Rising Religious Intolerance," an op-ed piece by Benedict Rogers (May 21, 2012) that can be found online at the New York Times site. The article is about broader Islamist mistreatment of minorities, but it cites persecution of Christians as part of this larger pattern, a problem that Mr. Rogers describes from his recent visit to Indonesia:
[On] Sunday, I joined a small church in Bekasi, a suburb of Jakarta, for a service, but found the street blocked by a noisy, angry mob and a few police.

The church, known as HKBP Filadelfia, was forced to close a few years ago, even though the local courts had given permission to open. The local mayor, under pressure from Islamists, has declared a "zero church" policy in his area. For the past two months, the congregation has been blocked from worshiping in the street outside their building, and the atmosphere has grown increasingly tense.

When I was there, I felt it could have erupted into violence at any moment. The radicals in control of the loudspeaker shouted "Christians, get out," and "anyone not wearing a jilbab (headscarf), catch them, hunt them down" . . . . Another church, GKI Yasmin in Bogor, an hour from Jakarta, has approval from the Supreme Court to open, but the local mayor, again under pressure from Islamists, refuses to allow it. A district mayor is in defiance of the Supreme Court, and no one says a word . . . . In Aceh, 17 churches were forced to close.

I met other church pastors who talked about their churches being closed, and a woman, the Rev. Luspida, who was beaten while one of her congregation was knifed. "We have no religious freedom here anymore," she told me. "We need to give a message to the president. He cannot say the situation is good here. We need to remind him our situation is very critical, and he should do something for the future of Indonesia. Support from outside is very important to pressure the president."

Those of us who are keeping track of radical Islam's fortunes in various parts of the world have long noticed and commented upon this pattern of Islamist intimidation of religious minorities, especially with respect to Christians, for the Islamists seem to have particular animus against Christianity, perhaps because the West is the old enemy that resisted successfully for so long and even turned back the spread of Islam into Europe during Medieval and Early Modern times, a humiliation exacerbated by the West's colonization of Muslim countries in the later Modern period.

Postcolonial guilt has perhaps previously blunted Western criticism of radical Islam, but a new generation has grown up without a sense of that guilt, and people are talking . . .

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At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries is under-reported in the Western press? Is there much interest in Congress or does the US government look the other way because Indonesia is an old ally with close ties between their military and ours?


At 7:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think that there may be a couple of reasons.

First, Christians themselves have long remained publicly silent, turning more to prayer than to politics.

Second, Americans tend to think government should avoid acting as partisan for any particular religion.

Neither of these points is without exception in US history, but I think that they are tendencies -- or have been.

I'd add that there's also a lack of awareness among Westerners that Christianity now has more adherents outside of the West than within, so Westerners hardly realize that there is a problem.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, Christians themselves have long remained publicly silent, turning more to prayer than to politics.

Is my irony meter malfunctioning again? Christians have always been politically active in the US on issues ranging from slavery to substance abuse to civil and women's rights. In the past three decades, evangelical and Catholic Christians have been stalwart supporters of the Republican party. Christian leaders have made numerous public statements regarding social and economic issues and rallied their followers to support candidates whose views align with their religious beliefs and values. To wit, if US Christians can speak out and campaign against same-sex marriage, they can certainly turn their attention to their persecuted brethren overseas.


At 1:01 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's on issues within the States (though Evangelicals were politically quiet until the 1970s). I meant on the issue of persecution of Christians in other countries. Anyway, that silence is changing, and you'll be hearing a lot more from Christians worldwide on this issue, partly due to the internet.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my original question, I asked about the Western press and Congress, so I interpreted your response as referring to the US. Evangelical churches were not silent in the 1800s. Prior to the Civil War, southern evangelical churches were pro-slavery, using Bible passages to justify the practice. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed as a result of the issue of slavery dividing southern and northern Baptist churches.


At 5:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

American Christians go through cycles on political activism -- sometimes liberal, sometimes conservative -- and political quietism.

Anyway, when I wrote "Christians themselves have long remained publicly silent, turning more to prayer than to politics," I was referring to the Western press and Congress, as you thought, but I meant specifically on the issue of persecution.

I could have been more clear, I see.

Jeffery Hodges

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