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What we can do to help persecuted Christians

It’s time we started a boycott of countries that mistreat Christians

By on Monday, 2 September 2013

Iraqi Christians protest in Michigan – Christians in the west need to show their support (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Iraqi Christians protest in Michigan – Christians in the west need to show their support (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The great and good Lord Sacks, former Chief Rabbi, according to a report from the Daily Telegraph, made the following comments in a recent interview marking his departure from office:

“However the cause which he discusses with the deepest concern of all is the persecution of Christians in the Middle East – a plight, he argues, which is getting virtually no attention in public life.

“I think this is a human tragedy that is going almost unremarked. I don’t know what the name for this is, it is the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing.

“We are seeing Christians in Syria in great danger, we are seeing the burning of Coptic churches in Egypt. There is a large Coptic population in Egypt and for some years now it has been living in fear. Two years ago the last church in Afghanistan was destroyed, certainly closed. There are no churches left in Afghanistan.

“Between half a million and a million Christians have left Iraq. At the beginning of the 19th century Christians represented 20 per cent of the population of the Arab world, today two per cent. This is a story that is crying out for a public voice, and I have not heard an adequate public voice.”

It is striking that this is an issue which does not directly involve Jews at all.

But being Jewish, “you cannot but feel this very deeply and personally”, he says. “I think sometimes Jews feel very puzzled that Christians do not protest this more vociferously.””

How right Lord Sacks is, and how completely (once again) I agree with him. But this leaves us with a question. Given the situation facing Christians in Egypt and elsewhere, what can we do?

I think we should assume that we can do something, and that concerted action could have startling effects. South Sudan succeeded in becoming independent back in 2011 after a long struggle partly because of unstinting support from America which was the result of pressure from, among others, evangelical Christians. If Christians act together they can make a difference. It is also undoubtedly true that people in general can make a difference: the morale of apartheid era South Africa was greatly damaged by sporting sanctions, which were largely driven by public opinion, the governments of the day being much less keen on opposing apartheid than the general public. South Africa became a pariah nation, and that certainly helped bring about a change of heart.

When one looks at the list of countries that persecute Christians – there are a variety of helpful websites that list the countries, such as this one here – one realizes that this is a global problem, and of course the worst persecutor is China. Boycotting Chinese goods is hardly practical; neither can we boycott exports from Saudi Arabia. But there are other things we can do. Here is a list of suggestions.

First of all, Christians and all who care about human rights can refuse to visit persecuting countries, several of whom rely on tourism. One such country, and a major tourist destination, is the Maldives:  a tourist boycott of the Maldives would make an impact. The same must be true of China, and Egypt.

Secondly, we can urge our governments to break off or disrupt cultural and sporting links with countries that persecute Christians. This was extremely effective with the sports-mad South Africans. The Chinese are also very keen on such links. Christian athletes, chess players and others are well placed to disrupt sporting links with China.

Thirdly, we can protest. Whenever the figureheads of the Chinese regime come to Britain, the sight of a Tibetan flag drives them to distraction, and more importantly, severely embarrasses the British government too. Let’s keep that embarrassment up! The struggle for a free Tibet is a good template for keeping this issue of persecution in the news.

Of all of these, I think the first has the greatest potential. Soon you may be thinking of your forthcoming holidays. Please choose carefully!

  • Penuel Ellis-Brown

    I wholeheartedly agree with this, and have sent the link to the PM’s office in the hope that it comes to his attention.

  • $20596475

    The real persecution of any minority needs to be opposed and exposed. Whether, or not, sanctions or boycotts are the right way depends I suspect on the circumstances. Sometimes direct engagement, and the use of persuasive argument, might be more effective.

    The example of Tibet is correctly used as an example of the way passive protest can maintain attention. Stephen Fry is proposing a similar mute protest at this year’s Winter Olympics in Russia to draw attention to that country’s new “anti-gay” legislation.

    I also think it would greatly help if the word “persecution” could be used only when it is really appropriate. Too often it is used to describe issues which, at worst, simply reflect different approaches. To misuse it like that devalues and dilutes it’s significance when being used to describe issues of real importance, such as those described above.

  • Cestius

    You might know that in the twisted world of political correctness that rules much of the media, Christians, particularly Catholic, Orthodox and traditional evangelical are the lowest class of human life, the untouchables in the PC hierarchy. Probably one step beneath the Muslims. And therefore not of that much concern. That’s why we hear so much about the new “anti-gay” laws in Russia, but little or nothing about the plight of Christians who are suffering real persecution in places like Nigeria, Middle Eastern countries, communist countries and so on.

  • johnhenry

    “…the word “persecution” [should] be used only when…appropriate.”
    This thread is about the plight of Christians in lands where they are tortured, killed, imprisoned, exiled, denied religious freedom, denied employment, denied equality and justice. Sounds to me like persecution is exactly the word to use. Do you know of any countries where Christians are treated unfairly just a teensy weensy bit?

  • Laurence

    Mining and civil engineering companies, in particular from the UK, US, Ireland etc etc are falling over themselves in recent times to win contracts in the Middle East and elsewhere; to wit, employees, perhaps Catholics (?!), may be asked to work by unconscionable corporations in these areas. Perhaps these Catholics should refuse to help build up these appalling Islamic states with their know how? Without the input of Christian (nominal perhaps) engineers, these extremist Muslim states would still be the nomadic sons-of-the-desert that they are.

  • $24570317

    One thing we could do to help is to stop using the word “persecution” to describe situations in which some Christians (usually funded and supported by organisations whose aim is to deliberately generate these situations) have been disciplined for failing to conform to their conditions of employment or to do the job they were employed to do.

    There is a real and obvious danger that both Christians and wider secular society will lose sight of the true meaning of the word.

  • $24570317

    I think that is exactly majorcalamity’s point. Read his post again.

    I hadn’t seen the major’s post when I wrote mine (above).

  • $20596475

    As I thought I made very clear I completely agree that what is described in this story really is persecution. What I am suggesting is that the moaning that often accompanies UK stories about such issues as Catholic adoption agencies, guest houses refusing same sex couples, the wearing of religious symbols by nurses etc, etc is falsely described as “persecution” and so devalues the real events.

  • AnthonyPatrick

    ‘the word “persecution”…
    Too often it is used to describe issues which, at worst, simply reflect
    different approaches. ‘

    If Stephen Fry and other Media/celebrity folk with particular approaches
    did not confuse anti-“gay propaganda” with “anti-gay” legislation (and if the
    same fellow travellers did not so often, and so often disingenuously, denounce the
    teaching of Christian doctrine as the indoctrination of Christian propaganda
    and confuse it with ‘hate crime’); and if the “example” of the Tibetan experience of Chinese subjugation really is similar to western Media-reported gay lobby
    protesting of gay “issues” (more than to, say, the plight of
    Chinese Christians subjected to state control)… then I agree wholeheartedly with the substantive point in your final paragraph.

  • Annie

    “What can we do to help persecuted Christians.”

    Arm them to defend themselves. The Muslims attacking them are organized and the Christians there are going to have to get organized themselves and put up a credible defense if they’re going to stop themselves from being murdered.

  • $24570317

    WHAT a good idea!
    Let’s have a religious war (“like wot they used to have”).

    And, of course, the late physicist Professor Sir James Chadwick CH FRS who was the discoverer of the neutron (and received a Nobel Prize for it in the 1930s) which plays a vital role in the workings of the nuclear bomb (both the fission A and fusion H bomb) WAS A CATHOLIC (and a Papal science adviser, who lived in a nice flat in Cambridge during his retirement).

    So, therefore, to make a strong point, why not use a (small, of course [again]) nuclear bomb on them?

  • Mark Banks

    Fourth: we could fast and pray, as the Pope has suggested for this coming Saturday. I doubt there will be anything more effective than this if we all get behind it.

  • firstparepidemos

    Fair enough that the word “persecution” is becoming as misused as the word “love” (e.g. I love pasta) but surely you cannot disagree that Christians in the Middle East are, indeed, being persecuted.

  • Frank

    One thing we could do to help is not pretend it isn’t persecution to describe deliberately generated situations (usually by well-funded organisations) whose aim is to oppress some Christians by changes to their conditions of employment or to the job they were employed to do.

    There is a little danger that wider secular society will lose sight of the true meaning of the word

  • $24570317

    When we’re talking about true persecution (rather than infinitely unlikely religious wars or stage-managed “outrage”) it’s best to be serious.

    It is a fact that there ARE Christians who are being wickedly persecuted in the generally accepted sense of that word – and there are others who are the mere pawns of mischievous right-wing political organisations who are performing their dramas.
    The pawns are probably, in their ignorance, quite sincere. But the funding agencies of these dramas have motives far removed from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • $24570317

    I don’t disagree with that.

    The suggestion that we stop misusing the word “persecution” was a serious one.
    The danger, even in our society, is of crying “wolf” too often.

  • Guest

    WHAT a good idea! Let them defend themselves when they can be slaughtered instead (“like wot they used to be”).

    And of course…blah…blah…blah…CATHOLIC…blah…blah…blah….

  • Romanus

    The West wants to distance itself from its Christian past of which they are quite ashamed as they now juge the past on the basis of its new PC dogma. They consciously ignore persecution of Christians for fear of being accused of crusading. The media, the High Priests of PC are doing an outstanding job at this. They are only too happy to beat the drums against the “anti-gay” laws of Russia to detract attention from the persecution of Christians. Eradication of Christianity is necessary to spread the PC dogma worldwide and mop up the last pockets of Christian resistance in the West..

  • Jonathan West

    How about thinking more in terms of boycotting countries who persecute people?

  • LocutusOP

    Here’s an even simpler list, Father ALS:
    1. Stop supporting politicians who are hostile to the Christian faith at home.
    2. Vote for politicians who do not support wars in the Middle East, and who are also not opposed to Christianity at home.
    3. Pressure politicians to recognise that Christians are a persecuted group and in many parts of the world and do not vote for any politician who fails to recognise this fact.
    4. Pressure politicians to grant political asylum to Christians from these countries (which might just bolster our strength against the ever-increasing persecution at home).

    There is much we can do in our own countries before pointing the finger at the Chinese.

    The comparison with South Sudan doesn’t hold much water, and possibly the only reason it worked is because Sudan was already on the (rather arbitrary, at least with regard to tolerance of Christians, or ‘human rights’) list of foes. In contrast, many of the evangelicals will have been egging on a war against Syria, because Syria is Iran’s closest ally in the region, and we all know what they think about Iran.

    I do agree with you, however, that we can disrupt trade associations with those who persecute Christians, though even that has to begin at home. It will do no good to avoid buying Chinese, Saudi Arabian or Maldivian products, if we continue to patronise companies which erode the moral fabric of our own countries because it’s this first and foremost which has led to such a muted response to these atrocities.

  • Acleron

    If we want their natural resources then we have to supply sufficient technology. There is no doubt that Muslim countries were xenophobic long before oil became important but all religious states suffer the same. Stoking the fires of their antagonism by continually interfering with those states and killing the inhabitants as if they were sub-humans has exacerbated the situation to what we see today. It is past time we admitted our culpability and reset our policies.

  • stephen

    Why, for the last several years, have the vast majority of catholic priests and bishops failed to offer prayers during daily/weekly mass for christians facing persecution, torture, and murder around the globe? Why haven’t they led prayer (rosary etc.) and fasting efforts in dioceses and parishes for christians facing such horrific violence? Why haven’t they offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them and encouraged laity to offer Masses and Communions for there fellow christians in duress?
    Fr Alexander, why have you failed to recommend the aforementioned?? Eph 6:12 – “For our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Fr Alexander, since this is a spiritual battle first and foremost, why aren’t you placing primary emphasis on the spiritual weapons at our disposal in addition to the political and economic?

  • AnthonyPatrick


    Or perhaps it is only that this tendency seems to have been intensified in our era since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. It would have been obvious sooner had it not been for the moral disorientation brought about in part by the previously unimaginable massive destruction and appalling evils of two secular World Wars. These of course include unconscionably horrific actions (eg. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, etc.) sanctioned by US and UK governments against entire city populations, in addition to the brutality and death camps of the generally more familiar Imperialist, Fascist, Nazi or ‘Stalinist’ bogeymen of orthodox liberal history.

    For much of the second half of the twentieth century, in the interests of political pragmatism, the all-too-human origins of such devastation made it very ‘un-PC’ for certain essentially atheistic liberal doctrines to be evangelized too forcibly. Hence, they were not preached by secular governments with anything like the overt fervour that, say, eugenicist-’humanists’ had dared before the First World War. From time to time (eg. for as long as the ‘West’ needed Pope John Paul II’s and the Catholic Church’s stand against Communism in Europe and Latin America), the project even appeared to be on hold, so to speak.

    But in reality, ever since the early twentieth century, modernist and post-modernist academic and social applications of Marxist ideology (‘liberated’ where necessary from Marx’s flawed economic creed) have encouraged materialistically inhuman and anti-family dogma to be adapted and re-branded with impunity as ‘rights’, and thus have enabled the please-yourself-first (aka ‘right to choose’, aka ‘will to power’) mentality of ‘free market’ liberalism to hold increasing global sway.

    Long before the millennium, the gloves were off with regard to orthodox Christian resistance to secular selfism in the West. Global advertising, 24-hour broadcast news, and industrial TV/genre cinema have been continuing the missionary work ever since.

    God bless democracy… every one?

  • Banmeagain

    Because his FAITH is lukewarm at best. He looks at situations primarily with a worldly heart and eyes and therefore will primarily suggest worldly solutions, with no doubt a bit of spirituality thrown in now you have reminded him…..

  • Jude

    He is not alone, since the dawn of this new papacy we have seen nothing but friendly, cringe worthy overtures to the Muslim world. There are priests who invite their flock to take a leaf out of the cult of islam. Christians in Syria are in line for a massive onslaught against them, Ireland is pushing Christianity out and welcoming hordes of Muslims in, it really looks as if Western society is in suicide mode, but we have no leaders, no shepherds. Sincerely it is an invitation to despair.

  • sandygrounder

    As well as Fr Lucie Smith’s suggestions we can also pray and give money to those charities which support persecuted Christians such as the excellent Aid to the Church in Need.

  • mikethelionheart

    Oh dear JB.

    Let us pray that you are not forced out of your job because of changes in your work conditions and then no one derides you for ‘crying wolf’ over ‘perceived persecution’.

  • Banmeagain

    Remember Jude that we have already won in eternity. There can be no room for despair after Our Lords explicit promise of victory. But indeed there is occuring a great seperation of the wheat from the chaff which is becoming clearer by the day as the great harvest of history approaches….

  • kitekatpie

    Now THAT is a far more sensible idea!

  • Percy_Fleur

    Would you like to suggest an alternative label for low-level, non-violent harassment of Christians, then, if “persecution” doesn’t float your boat? It seems to me that “persecution” is a suitably pointed term to draw attention to the fact that wilful harassment of Christians is indeed occurring, while people like you are deliberately engaged in disinformation to depict any such harassment as trivial and imagined.
    You are only really concerned with silencing Christians into conformity with your bizarre world-view. None of us doubt that Christians in Syria are in mortal danger while we are safe; but your implication that we are not allowed to dissent until someone has a knife at our throats is typical of your nu-fascism.

  • Atilla the Possum

    My PP has only just WOKEN UP and added persecuted Christians to the bidding prayers.
    You are right. There ought to be Masses offered and the Holy Rosary recited.
    The Holy Rosary is, after all, besides the Mass, a very powerful weapon against evil.
    With all due respect, your Lordships/Graces/Eminences and Fathers – here is the skinny:

  • $20596475

    What “low-level, non-violent harassment of Christians”?

    If you mean those events being talked up by some shady right wing organisations then I think good people are being manipulated for some very doubtful objectives.

    I am as concerned about real persecution as anyone else. In fact I have a great deal of respect and affection for the Coptic Church after I first encountered them in Jerusalem and hate to think that they, or anyone similar, are being threatened.

    I have no desire to silence anyone. All I am recommending is that you get things in perspective and use the correct language.

    No-one is “haressing” Christians. That some feel they are is a reflection of a persecution complex and not of reality. All that is happening is a long overdue adjustment of individual rights. Learn to respect that the rights of others are as important as your own and there will be no further problems.

  • Julian Lord

    Let’s have a religious war

    We’ve already got one, throughout the Middle East, just in case you hadn’t noticed …

  • Percy_Fleur

    “All I am recommending is that you [...] use the correct language. No-one is “haressing” Christians.”

  • Percy_Fleur

    You are being disingenuous and know very well what kind of low-level harassment I mean. After all, you list several examples in your earlier post.
    I think we should call you Constable Calamity in future. Move along, sir. Nothing to see here. No “haressment” (sic) of Christians going on here, sir. Move along, please. You’re blocking the progress of society, sir. Would you like to meet my truncheon, sir?

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    In this matter following Jesus the Lord is the best thing to do. Do we hear Bishops raising such a subject?

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    When we Christians ARE the greatest enemies of the Lord who have crucified him over and over again throughout the centuries……and KEEP ON doing THE SAME still without even posing to think of our SIN…..thus following actively the Lord’s original crucifiers…..

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • $20596475

    I think it is you who is being disingenuous. The examples I used were to highlight those events being hyped up by shady right wing organisations to stir up the Christian community and stoke the fires of their persecution complex.

    They are neither persecution, nor are they harassment. They are merely the reflection of changes towards a more equitable society. There simply is no specific targeting of Christians. That some might be affected, as the rights of others get considered, is just an effect of those changes.

    The absolute worst description to be applied would be that there are differences of opinion.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    CHALLENGE the war-dreaming and war-thinking, war-making, war-selling, God-playing ‘christian’ nations using Human and Christian ideals and ideas and above all using THE WORD OF GOD Jesus the Lord (His words and exemplary deeds) against them and at the same time PRAYING for them for we all, and above all the national LEADERS of such nations and the religious LEADERS (especially) need BADLY the SALVATION Jesus the Lord brought us.

    The PRACTICING Christians in these above mentioned nations have a very special role in this: WORKING FROM WITHIN.

    Only SAVED (enjoying SALVATION of Jesus the Lord) people can SAVE OTHERS bringing them the Lord’s SALVATION. Other people just sow DEATH and promote it thorough their WARS throughout the world.

    When we try to be winners and conquerors on our own, the Lord has his own way to make us all fools.

    Peter and Party fished all night and caught NOTHING. BUT when they obeyed the Lord things CHANGED and bore 100 % FRUIT.

    WE ALL NEED TO BE TRUE CHRISTIANS. And true Christians belong to the Lord and do and promote his own plans for all mankind.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    True Christian spirit starts with, ‘Repentance, forgiveness…. and the readiness to ask pardon..lets us be lead in this by the Spirit of the great Pope John Paul II.


  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    All big Christian Churches which do not give foundational importance to THE WORD OF CHRIST in practice end up worshiping the god of philosophers.


  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    You think Christ the Lord will approve such an act?


  • Annie

    Absolutely. Suicide is a mortal sin.

  • $20596475

    The shadiness is who is backing them and what their true objectives are. The primary organisation which concerns me is the “Christian Legal Centre”. I think there are many unanswered questions.

    Rotary has, in my own experience, no political connections and is perfectly open in it’s objectives which are entirely intended to help those who are disadvantaged both at home and abroad. To suggest otherwise is to slur a large number of well meaning people trying to give something back to their communities. On their behalf I resent that.

  • Julian Lord

    Rotary has, in my own experience, no political connections

    That’s a REAL knee-slapper of inane naïveté !!!!

    SECOND good belly laugh of the day !!!!

  • Percy_Fleur

    Great. Perhaps you will understand now why so many of us resent your unfounded slurs against the Church and various organisations within it, which consist of many well-meaning people giving things back to their communities and to others further afield.
    Let us know when you find any evidence to back up your “unanswered” (i.e. baseless) smears on the Christian Legal Centre.

  • $20596475

    What part of “in my own experience” do you have difficulty in understanding?

    You know almost nothing of my experience with Rotary so, as what I said was 100% true, I hope your laughing produced the indigestion it deserved.

  • Josh

    Annie, we need to keep in mind that we have an eternal life. We need not fear man, but God who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. As hard as it sounds, we need to pick up the cross and follow Jesus even if it means death. The holy apostles are good examples also. We need to be mindful of the things of God not man, which Christ taught as Peter rebuked Him when He revealed that He was to be crucified. We need to follow Christ wherever He leads us, it’s possible that might mean death (but life, in that we go to be with our heavenly Father and Christ forevermore) if it is you can be sure it’s for the good of His kingdom and thus yourself as a servant of His kingdom. In our persecution we can show the greatest example of our hope and trust in Christ and in His power and resurrection. Honestly it would be better if our persecutors turned to Christ than to continue persecuting. Annie, it certainly is not suicide. We need the guidance and help of our Holy Father to help and pray and do everything we can for those suffering persecution as with suffering with them according to God’s divine will and foresight. Take care and may God strengthen you in faith.