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CHRISTIANS/ Allen: Massive Intervention Needed to Halt Persecution in the Middle East

In an interview with Terrasanta.net, JOHN ALLEN discusses the situation of Christians in the Middle East and the need of a mobilisation of the Christian consciousness in their defense

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The world is experiencing a new generation of Christian martyrs and Christians in the Middle East are arguably the most vulnerable, according to American journalist John Allen Jr. The author of the new book, "The Global War on Religion – Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution”, Allen highlights statistics showing that an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed for their faith each year for the past decade; that works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour.

In an Oct. 9 interview in Rome with Terrasanta.net, he discusses the current situation in the Middle East, why the Church should speak out as vehemently as the Jewish people do when they are persecuted, and the importance of prayer in raising consciousness of the situation.

Drawing on your research, how serious is the persecution in the Middle East at present?

One of the myths I try to debunk in the book is that anti-Christian persecution is all about Islam because Muslims are hardly the only threat. The most anti-Christian pogrom in recent history happened not in the Islamic world but in the Indian state of Orissa, in 2008. That said, if you want to look at those places on the map where Christians are arguably most at risk today, it does tend to be in the Middle East, Iraq being the emblematic case in point: a church that had 1.5m – 2m members at time of first Gulf War in 1990, and today the high end estimate is around 400,000, realistically. Some think it’s lower than that, 250,000. I mean, this is a church with 2 millennia of history which has basically been gutted in the arc of two decades. And there are many Christian leaders in the Middle East, and particularly in Syria and Egypt today, who feel those two societies maybe the next Iraqs, the next states where a police state crumbles, chaos ensues, and Christians become primary victims. So I do think that if there’s a single spot on the map where Christian conscience needs to be most focused about Christians being at risk, it’s probably there.

The situation is very likely to worsen in your view?

Without playing the prophet, if present trajectories continue, it seems to me abundantly obvious that things are going to get worse, and it’s going to require massive intervention on behalf of outside parties to try to change the calculus. I don’t think you can put all the eggs in the basket and say: “Well it’s the United States army that has to put boots on the ground.” It may come to that at some point, but what I would hope to see is that there would be a grassroots mobilisation of the Christian consciousness so you would have, in the Christian world, something analogous to what happens in the Jewish world every time there’s an anti-Semitic attack someplace. Any time a swastika is spray painted on a synagogue in the world, the global Jewish community – which, let’s face it, is significantly smaller than the Christian community – nevertheless will organise coherently to bring attention to it and shame the government of that place into doing something about it. We Christians have not reacted in the same way up to this point and I think we need to. It’s long past time.

So no more, as some see it, “turning the other cheek”?