|Image courtesy smallbones.
Trying to protect chimps from extinction is not an unworthy cause. However, there is another group that has seen a similar loss in numbers in the last twenty years. In 1990, there were between 1.2 million to 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq. Today there are less than 200,000, according to Dr. Rupert Shortt. In his recent article Christianophobia, Shortt make the startling claim that "Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers" in the world today, and thus Christianity has surpassed Judaism as the most persecuted faith. He says that in the Middle East Christianity is so persecuted that it could become extinct in the place of its birth. "There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands. Anthony O'Mahony of Heythrop College, London, echoes other scholars in estimating that between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the region have left or been killed over the past century."2
In her article on the report, Evelyn Gordon observes:
There are two reasons why Christianity has displaced Judaism as the world's most persecuted religion. One, obviously, is increased persecution of Christians, which stems largely from the rise of radical Islam: Though non-Islamic countries like China also repress Christians, only radical Islamists kill them wholesale. The other is that today, Jews face less persecution than ever before in history. And that is entirely due to the existence of the State of Israel.3It is evident that Islam is a primary reason for the growing persecution of Christians specifically. Shortt's report offers a detailed look at seven nations (Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Burma, and China) to bolster his argument of the persecution Christians face. He concludes by noting that religious freedoms are commonly found in countries that are traditionally Christian, while the countries with the most persecutions are those that are either traditionally Islam or those with Communist governments.
Quoting from the Pew Forum and the World Evangelical Alliance, Dr. Shortt estimates that "200 million Christians (10 per cent of the global total) are socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs."4 He also highlights the fact that religious freedom is important, because it serves as a barometer for the general amount of freedom a country offers its citizens. "Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally."5
So, with Christians in Nigeria being bombed inside their churches, the killing of Christian converts in Pakistan, or Copts being burned alive in Egypt, there is a crisis in the world due to religious persecution. So, how valuable are these Christians who face life-threatening conditions? Are we willing to do as much for them as for the chimpanzees? Should there not be an outcry from citizens of free nations so that western governments demand such atrocities stop? If the canary in the mine dies, you know that it will be only a matter of time before you will, too. Perhaps we had better take these warnings seriously.
2. Shortt, Rupert. Christianophobia. (London: Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2012). Available online at http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/Shortt_Christianophobia.pdf viii.
3. Gordon, Evelyn. "Religious Persecution and Safe Havens." Commentary. , http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/02/26/religious-persecution-and-safe-havens/ 2/26/2013.