What’s Wrong with the World

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Happy New Year

I'll admit that I didn't (and don't) understand the article's first line: "For Christians--and many Muslims--the main reason to celebrate this Christmas is, of course, Jesus' birth." I wasn't aware that Muslims did that. If so, I feel confident that they're not celebrating the same Jesus as the rest of us, but I mention it only because it seems an odd preface to the persecution of Christians, which the adherents of Islam in certain places are eager to inflict.

The Weekly Standard can be a mixed bag of varying conservatisms, but in this season of Merry Christmas and happy New Year, of personal resolutions and of hope for increased prosperity, the reminder that Paul Marshall offers in the current issue - that Christmas is not, for everyone everywhere, an event of unblemished joy, but one fraught with peril - should for us be salutary.

...for probably hundreds of millions, Christmas is shadowed by pain and fear, since this is usually the peak season for anti-Christian attacks in Pakistan, India, Sudan, Nigeria, and beyond. It is also a time when the Chinese and Vietnamese governments are prone to arrest their unregistered believers.

He gives examples, such as the rioting in Nigeria during the 2006 "Danish cartoon" uproar, in which Muslims "killed 65 and destroyed 57 churches and 250 businesses." Other places where persecution is ongoing? China, Laos, India, Iraq, Turkey, Ethiopia, Sudan, Belarus, and Gaza. He even mentions Britain, where Muslim converts to Christianity are threatened, to the extent that "Many remain in hiding, and one has had to move 45 times."

But we should not think that all, or even most, of the persecution of Christians comes at Muslim hands (I don't know what the actual figures are). Mr. Marshall draws the article's focus down to two countries in particular ("two of the worst", he says) which are largely ignored "because their repressions do not fit any wider international political agendas," leaving "their victims among the world's most forgotten people" - Burma and Eritrea. Of the former he says that "the regime's destruction of its ethnic and religious minorities seldom receives coverage, though it rivals that in Darfur." Both of these states seem to be secular in practice, if not in foundation, with a low tolerance for religious fervor, seeing it as a competitor in the state's desire for the soul's allegiance, and resulting in certain policies whose fanaticism puts the religious variety to shame. In Burma's Chin State, for example, though the government officially promotes Buddhism (it was Buddhist monks who led the demonstrations there and were crushed for their trouble), "unmarried Buddhist government soldiers have been encouraged, with offers of higher rank and privileges, to marry and convert Christian Chin women." It appears that Christians and Muslims are persecuted there with equal ferocity, neither being allowed to build churches and mosques, but actually compelled to participate in their destruction. In Eritrea, the government's animus seems especially aimed at Pentecostals and Evangelicals. The author claims that in both countries torture is commonplace with, in Burma, "reports...of prisoners being roasted over fires." Eritrea accomplishes this below ground in metal containers, without the use of fire.

All this comes at a time when "Christianity is the world's fastest growing religion. Two-thirds of Christians and four-fifths of active Christians live outside the West, so Christianity now may well be the world's largest non-Western religion."

Anyway, read it for yourself. I've often wondered why the defense of these "forgotten people" is not a part of the vaunted War on Terror. Have any of our presidential candidates made any mention of them? If we're going to go around liberating countries for humanitarian reasons, who better to benefit than our fellow Christians? And, in a few places, even the Muslim might end up calling us brother.

Comments (9)

If we're going to go around liberating countries for humanitarian reasons, who better to benefit than our fellow Christians? And, in a few places, even the Muslim might end up calling us brother.

We are not going to liberate any more countries for humanitarian reasons in the next, oh 20-30 years or so.
For the simple reason that it cost a lot in blood and treasure, it doesn't work and there is, usually, nothing for us.

And if one will wait for a Muslim to call infidel a brother, one will wait till hell freezes over.

As if after 6+ years of all of us being pushed by events to learn about Islam, there nothing about Islam in the minds of some people.

Recently, there has been some speculation that the Burmese junta may not be long for the world. Not that this will have anything to do with the morally dubious involvement of George Soros, though it may well happen with the connivance of the United States. China has long served as a quasi-patron of the Burmese junta, for a variety of strategic and economic reasons, but it now appears that China perceives the junta to be of decreasing value in the region; moreover, Afghanistan has displaced Burma as the world's principal supplier of opium, leaving the junta without one of its sources of revenue. To be certain, the junta still retains the gem trade, and the usual ex-im corruption, as sources of revenue; but with the United States' stated displeasure with a junta that affords no strategic benefit for the 'war on terror', and with China similarly perceiving no strategic value in the military regime, regime change may be in the cards in the coming years.

Or not. Who can say, with any degree of certainty? All I can state is that the involvement of Soros is almost always a signal that regime change will be effected if at all possible. It will, however, be the work of China if and when it transpires, which is to say that it will be of dubious value to the suffering believers of that country.

As regards the possibility of a foreign policy the object of which is to secure Christian populations, well... American foreign policy seems to have preferred the Muslims over the Christians, times without number, since the close of the Cold War, and even those campaigns which have been sold - retrospectively - as liberatory have had naught but negative repercussions for the Christians, as in Iraq. So... if any wars of liberation can be justified - and these would be the ones - we'd be asking a leopard to change his spots, so to speak.

Which means that, in the case of the Christians of Asia, say, we ought to pray that - as some analysts, such as Philip Jenkins, have argued - the burgeoning Churches of China will gradually leaven the society, permeating even the government and bringing about alterations of policy. This will be an epochal process, much like the conversion of the Empire; God willing, it will be so.

On Eritrea: I make no claim to have much knowledge about it. But even Wikipedia states that 49% of the population is Muslim. The rest appears to be divided amongst a bunch of different Christian groups, of which only a few of the larger are recognized and registered. It may be that (unfortunately) some of the larger Christian groups are as involved as are the Muslims in the brutal persecution of the unregistered Christians. But it certainly doesn't look like an officially irreligious country. Moreover, my understanding is that recently Eritrea has been involved with Somali troops in conflicts with Ethiopia, and of course the Somalis are unambiguously Muslim. Eritrea and Ethiopia have a conflict of long standing. So while my own very limited knowledge leaves ambiguity over whether the anti-Christian persecution in Eritrea can be put down to the Muslims, it looks to me like it might be so in no small measure, and it's the kind of thing I'd like to ask a trusted expert about--that is, an expert who holds no brief for Islam.

A small amount of research (by my husband) turns up the info. tha the head honcho in Eritrea is Orthodox and that the ruling party is Marxist. A significant combination, I fear. This may mean that the persecution in Eritrea falls into a different, previously-known, persecution pattern from that of Islam vs. Christian.

I lived in Eritrea for a little over a year. It is of course, a very brief period of time, but enough to get a sense for these things.
Let there be no question that persecution of Christians in Eritrea is government related, and is based on paranoia, and has nothing to do with Muslims.
There is almost uncanny absolute and total respect between Christians and Muslims there. During my years of relationship with friends there, some Muslim , some Christian (most Orthodox), I have never been involved or heard of a conflict over their religion. You can hear the praying over loudspeakers from the musks, and you can witness the Christian religious ceremonies all over without any kind of conflict.

The Eritrean people are very respectful, warm and totally and innocently hospitable.

All over the world there are degree of conviction going to fanatism and distorted views of religion.

If you are at all familiar with Muslims in Pakistan, you'll find it very difficult to think of them as such, because their beliefs and practices in ordinary life are so different.

It is not Muslims, or Christians, it is not Eritreans, or Ethiopians, it is the governments.

I think it is absolutely vital that we separate the people from their governments enough to understand that they cannot be held accountable for the policies the government takes, particularly in the case of dictatiorial governments.

When a government is elected and held in place by the people that is a different matter. When the government begins taking its own ppl in order to survive, then it must be considered separately as en entity.
I hope these comments help get the right idea, and clarify that the persecution of Christians/Muslims/mothers/youth/educators/etc in Eritrea is by the regime in order to try to guarantee its survival. I pray this year might bring about the necessary changes, that will allow Eritreans of all denominations and ages to welcome freedom back into their lives. I pray all the people Christian and Muslim who have been jailed will se freedom once more.

The head is in fact Muslim, and Marxist, and was trench buddy with Melos in Ethiopia trying to liberate both areas. How's that?
I think his political decisions have more to do with self-perpetuation in power than any observance of either Christian or Marxist ethics.
Basically if anyone disagrees with his thinking or policies, they get jailed. If anyone infiltrates Christian or Muslim groups, they get raided and the innocent go in with the scheming.
Many, many innocent people are in jail because more and more people are turning against him, and he is becoming delirious in his paranoia. His best friends and allies are all in jail.
He was a very promising man and politician at the end of the struggle, but he was blinded with thirst for power.
Very sad.

Well, I'm certainly willing to learn, but are we not talking about Isaias Afewerki?


Because he is listed there as Orthodox.

He's not torturing all these Christians to death personally. There have to be soldiers (or police, or government officials, or whatever they call them) doing it. To my mind one of the interesting and saddest questions is who these soldiers are. I suppose they could be atheists. But what are they nominally? Are they a random mix of Muslim and Orthodox soldiers carrying out all these torture orders against unregistered Christians caught reading the Bible, or what? I really don't know. But it looks like a bad, Marxist, mess, that's for sure.

Yes, for certain. I don't know why I made that mistake. He is Orthodox.
Faith is not the criteria there, it is loyalism. The critical question is whether you are loyal to the government or not. Many people/soldiers (men & women since military service is for both) are afraid to question anything for fear of getting jailed or tortured themselves. Many believe in the rhetoric that they are spoon fed.
Some religious groups have been known to be infiltrated by political opposition members who see these groups as safe havens for meeting. Others are totally innocent people who are literally going about their services, Bible study, etc. Most raids are said to have a bit of the first and many of the second.
Military service has a limit in paper, but the reality of the matter is that people go on for years, because trying to get out of it puts them on the subversive list. They work as "military" servers for the government and build the roads, the factories, farm the land, etc. The economy of Eritrea relies heavily on this, in addition to the money it gets annually from the diaspora. If the diaspora do not meet their contribution they do not have the opportunity to travel to Eritrea.
People live in fear of acting in a way that will make them suspect, and so this keeps growing and growing. I pray that somehow peaceful change can come about, but I doubt it. Any mention of Constitution, elections, etc. is almost suicidal.
Pray for the people of Eritrea.

we ought to pray that...the burgeoning Churches of China will gradually leaven the society

That is a prayer worth daily exercise. Christianity in China is growing, in spite of the government's efforts.

the head honcho in Eritrea is Orthodox and that the ruling party is Marxist With an emphasis on 'Marxist', I am sure. I suspected this of both regimes, just from the sound of things.