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After Regensburg the silence is deafening

On the fifth anniversary of the Pope’s seismic lecture Douglas Murray says that we are betraying persecuted Christians in Muslim lands

By on Monday, 12 September 2011

Muslim activists in Srinagar, India, protest against the Pope’s Regensburg lecture in September 2006                      AP Photo/Dar Yasin

Muslim activists in Srinagar, India, protest against the Pope’s Regensburg lecture in September 2006 AP Photo/Dar Yasin

It is five years now since Pope Benedict gave his celebrated address at Regensburg on faith and reason. Deeply thought and beautifully expressed, it is largely remembered for neither of these things. Rather, it is remembered for a single line in which Pope Benedict quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor making a disobliging remark about the way in which Islam is spread by violence.

Benedict XVI did not say that he agreed with the line. Indeed, he went out of his way before quoting it to distance himself from it, remarking, among other things, on its “brusqueness”. But this was to no avail.

Around the world, political and religious leaders in Muslim majority countries demanded apologies and threatened repercussions. More striking was the impact on the ground. Across what President Obama calls “the Muslim world”, there were protests and attacks against Christians and Christian sites. In the Palestinian areas and elsewhere churches were attacked and Christians targeted. In the Somali capital, Mogadishu, an Italian nun was shot and killed in an Islamist ambush at a hospital.

Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups promised to respond to a quotation mentioning Islam’s connection with violence by waging a campaign of violence. “Say our religion is peaceful or we’ll kill you” was once again the order of the day.

By 2006, so soon after the Danish cartoons controversy, the world had got used to this. And it expected the inevitable stand-down. Within days the Pope was effectively forced to issue an unprecedented apology.

Culturally and civilisationally, the aftermath of Regensburg was a far greater disaster than the mass-murder in New York and Washington 10 years ago this same month. Such successful intimidation of the head of the Catholic Church by elements of the Islamic faith has had a palpable effect, all but silencing the rightful concern of Christians for their co-religionists.

I am not a Catholic – indeed, I am not even a believer– but I have great respect for the current Pope and for many activities of the Catholic Church worldwide. But in recent years it has become increasingly difficult not to notice a failing at the heart of the Catholic – indeed the whole Christian – world’s outlook. Years of intimidation, thuggery and violence have succeeded in silencing criticism not only of Islam but of violence committed in the name of Islam against Christians. This now amounts to one of the great moral failings of our time.

Not a week, in fact not a day, goes by when Christians are not somewhere in the world the victims of Islamist violence. You can pluck a week, any week, and the story is the same: burnings, lootings, rapes, murders. Every one of the most degrading and terrifying things that one group of people can perform on another is performed by Islamists against Christians.

At the very start of this year, in the once-wonderful city of Alexandria, the Egyptian Coptic Christian community were the target of a massive car bomb placed outside their church as they left New Year’s Eve Mass. Twenty-three worshippers were killed and almost 100 injured.

At Easter this year it was once again Christians in Iraq who were targeted. This time it was a bomb at the Catholic church of the Sacred Heart in Baghdad. Every day the same, or similar, stories occur. Persecution of Christians is so routine that in much of the western press it rarely even appears as “News in Brief” material.

Just this month so far, the Iranian authorities finally released a Christian they have had in detention for 359 days. His “crime”? He was accused of spreading Christianity and of having ties with Christian organisations. As Muslim leaders around the world continue to campaign at the United Nations and elsewhere to try to make illegal – and punishable – any criticism of Islam, restrictions of the rights of Christians continue unnoticed. The government of Kazakhstan is this month preparing to introduce a new law further limiting the rights of Christians.

In other countries often described as “allies” of this one, the rights of Christians are already formally and informally deemed of no significance. Just a few days ago two Pakistani Christians were beaten with iron rods and left for dead by a group of young Muslim men because they refused to convert to Islam. As in many other countries, Christians in Pakistan are regularly threatened with death for so-called “apostasy” or “blasphemy”. Last month a Christian girl was reportedly tortured and sexually abused after refusing to convert, while a 38-year-old Christian was shot dead in a Christian suburb.

Across the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and much of Africa, wherever Christians are in a minority and Muslims in a majority, Christians are subjected to oppression, murder and violence. In Somalia the terrorist group al-Shabaab is attempting to carry out a genocide against the Christians of Somalia. Similar efforts are ongoing in Nigeria and elsewhere. In other places the effort to “religiously cleanse” whole areas of Christians is more subtle. In Bethlehem the local Christian community has been decimated. Not by the Israelis, but by Palestinian Muslims. Since the Palestinian Authority took control of Bethlehem 16 years ago the local Christians have gone from a majority to a minority community. It is a familiar pattern. Around the region I have spoken to many of these victims. I have heard their stories and seen their tears. And the same question always occurs. The world is often unconcerned. But why are their fellow Christians not doing anything?

There are of course some Christian organisations – notably the wonderful Barnabas Fund – which persist in trying to raise awareness and assist persecuted Christians. But the cause is one of the most unpopular and unacknowledged of our day.

After the bombing in Alexandria at New Year, tenuously, carefully, the Pope expressed concern not only for the Copts of Egypt, but also for the Muslims of Egypt. From the leading imam of Egypt this drew a swift response. The Pope was accused of “bias” and “unacceptable interference in the affairs of Egypt”.

This has become one of the librettos of our time. And it is high time that it changed.

Douglas Murray is an author and associate director of the Henry Jackson Society think tank

  • Benedictus Fan

    Thank God Catholic Herald has a spine to publish Douglas Murray’s politically incorrect article.

    Bravo Murray.

  • Zacman4u

    Driving home the point crisply & in his inimitable style, Douglas Murray, is an inspiration to us youth.

  • Liam Ronan

    Perhaps the situation is akin to Pius XII’s prudent silence about atrocities committed against the Jews during WWII. Rail about the persecution of Christians on the world stage and guarantee the perpetration of even worse and more widespread atrocities. I am certain something is being done behind the scenes. Pray much fellow Catholics for we are all called more and more now to become a Church of martyrs.

  • Pat Schwarz

    This article is going into my folder for future reference and sharing.  Thank you.

  • Vabax

    I seriously doubt that this Pope is intimidated. Rather, he would be worried that based on the response to the
    Regensburg address, life might be in danger if he pursues the matter in  public. This is  much like Pius XII who worked diligently to help save 750,000 Jews, while muting his further direct criticism of the Nazis.

  • Anna

    Excellent article…but Pope Benedict has spoken out about violence against Christians on a regular basis. In fact, after the Alexandria bombing, his measured rebuke caused Egypt to recall it’s Vatican ambassador. 
    I would NEVER fear that this pontiff would allow political correctness to keep him from saying the right thing…though he may choose to do it in a less provocative way than he had as a cardinal.

  • Parasum

    When was the persecuted Church last prayed for  ? Thanks to John XXIII, and his fantasies about the nice Communists, all that changed. How the Council Fathers  could have been so high on euphoria, God alone knows.  Time to get back to business, and throw all that dated ’60s junk in the bin.

    Why can an atheist see so clearly what’s wrong,when the people who should be able to see things as they are seem to be blind as bricks ?

    The readiness of the Papacy to make common cause with Muslims on bio-ethics, however good in itself that may be conceivably be, is a betrayal of the victims of Islam, Catholic, Coptic, Anglican, female, gay and a host of others. Since the Papacy welcomes such persons as Mugabe – no excommunication for *that Catholic dictator* ! – it is impossible to be surprised at the amoral behaviour of Rome.

  • Bossy Girls Femdom

    The facts are facts. Christians are attacked by Muslims. Christians attacks on Muslims exist in lower number than Muslim attacks against Christians. It is noteworthy to point that Muslims do not attack exclusively Christians. They attack Hindus also and are subjects to persecutions by Hindus. There are other interfaith conflicts. Atheists generally attack all religions with logic that sometimes is seen as blasphemous.

    What can be done? Islam teaches tolerance, Christianity stresses forgiveness, Hinduism stresses non violence. The violent streak seems present in all religion even if it violates the same religion teachings.

    I do not understand why did the Pope concern for Christians and also for Muslims bothers some high level Muslim clergy in Egypt and why should the Pope apologize and what should he apologize for?

  • Anonymous

    On the contrary, Bossy Girl, Islam does not teach tolerance.  Read the Koran and the Hadith before you show your ignorance of Islam.  Read about the treachery of Mohammed, his destruction of his followers, his pedophilia and immorality, and understand that there is tolerance in Islam only if Jews and Christians submit to Muslims and pay the Jizya.  Otherwise their fate under Islam is death or forced conversion.  You have no idea of the suffering of Christians under Islam.  Asa Bibi, for example, was sentenced to death in Pakistan under their pernicious blasphemy law without the ability to defend herself against her accusers because she is a Christian.   Learn about Islam.  Don’t be an ignorant Dhimmi.

  • ms catholic state

    It is not the Pope and Vatican that are ignoring the plight of persecuted Christians in the Islamic world…..but Western Governments and media to a large extent.  Also many Catholics on the ground often prefer not to refer to it.  Western Governments are keen to distance themselves from Christians lest… perish the thought…. they should be seen as ‘Christian’ themselves.  Why ….that would be discriminatory towards other religions and Islam especially.  I’m afraid Christendom exists no longer…..and we Christians let it go….and fell for the secular party line.  More fool us.

    I am sure Western Governments fully expect an Islamic future in the West….given birthrates and immigration rates.  So I guess they have consigned Christianity and Christians to the sidelines.  It doesn’t figure for them anymore.

  • Anonymous

    High on rhetoric (none of which I disagree with) but a little bit short on solutions. He doesn’t have responsibility for millions of believers. He doesn’t have to make the decision to speak out and chastise the Muslim perpetrators and jeopardise people’s lives. I think the Pope is in an almost impossible position, much like the Pope Pius XII in WWII. However, he does regularly speak out about the sufferings of Christians who are being persecuted throughout the world. It is not his fault that the Western Press does not report these events and highlight the Muslim agressors. In fact organisations like the BBC actively seek to cover up again religious motivations behind Muslim killlings of Christians, always seeking to say it was actually tribal or the like. That way they can keep their ridiculous notion of the importance of being perceived to be impartial being more important than truth.

  • Anonymous

    Our politicians have encouraged all this. Shame on them, and us for allowing it to hapen

  • Anonymous

    How, and who?

  • Anonymous

    We share the Old Testament with Islam.

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t we give both sides of the story? Most Muslims want peace.

  • Siobhan

    You are spot on in your comment and I say thank God for Douglas. I do not consider Islam to be a religion as far as I can tell there is nothing in common with the teachings of the koran and the Gospel of Christ. It is no surprise that an atheist is leading the way where our own church leaders refuse to go for we have been told in the Gospel that it is not the so called righteous that are making their way into heaven. I am saddened and so dismayed that the church does so little for the suffering Christians in muslim lands and I am tired of being told by others that the church has to tread carefully. Thank God Christ did not follow this train of thought otherwise there would have been no Good Friday and no Easter Sunday.

  • Anonymous

    No, we do not. Islam worships a god which is not God. Do your research.

  • Anonymous

    We share the same book, this is what I am saying. It is a fact that we both share the same book. I did not say any-more than this.

  • Anonymous

    OK. Still, the main “scriptures” of Islam consist of the Koran and the Hadith. The Koran and Hadith take precedence over anything in the Old Testament.

  • TCathal Loftus

    This sort of thing happens in Ireland. Protestants slaughter Catholics. And, yes, Catholics slaughter Protestants. On the continent of Europe, Christians slaughter Jews, Orthodox slaughter Catholics (and vice versa), Atheists slaughter Christians, and Christians slaughter Heretics. But, Christians also slaughter Muslims (and even hang them from trees, in Paris). Whoever has power, it is obvious, can, and sometimes does, slaughter anyone who has not. Christians are, indeed, slaughtered in Muslim lands, but also in other lands; India, Japan, China, and many parts of Africa. I believe we must highlight, and oppose, all such persecutions. 

  • Frank

    paulsays has to be totally oblivious to reality….Most Muslims want peace…yes, but only on their terms.
    For example, NO Churches may be built in an Islamic country.  NO muslim may convert to Christianity, upon pain of death.  Christians and Jews must pay a Jizya, or head tax, to Muslims.  Christians and Jews must expect to live under Sharia, which is nothing more than forced conversion to Islam.
    Why do we have this constant, false, untrue propaganda, not only from Muslims, but from dhimmis?
    “Islam is the religion of Peace!”  (while blowing up Churches).  “Muslims want peace!”  while ignoring the rights of Christians to celebrate their own religion.  Islamic statements about peace, are nothing but total lies. Their goal is the forced subjugation and forced conversion of Christians to Islam.  Sorry, Muslims, you aren’t believed.  You say you want “Peace!” What a joke, what a monstrous perversion, what incredible arrogance! 

  • LocutusOP

    We should all do our part to show solidarity towards persecuted Christians. How we do that is open to debate, but first thing we need to stop the soft but sustained persecution of Christians within Western nations.

    We should also be keen to show contrition for acts committed against Muslims by Western governments, and by their governments with Western permission – the victims of which far outnumber anything Muslims have done to date. Indeed, when Christians keep voting in blood-thirsty types to power, and
    re-elect them even after starting wars, it is not difficult to see why
    people would get enraged.

    Regarding the Danish cartoons, the Muslims had every right to get offended and enraged by them, and a Christian ought to reflect on his own sense of empathy if he does not understand why people would be offended at the caricature of their most revered figure.

  • Anonymous

    Frank there are Billions of Muslims in the world, we can condemn what we see as wrong – but we cannot tar entirely innocent people with the same brush.

    Frank are children born to Muslim parents inherently evil or destructive? Is this what you believe?

    You should recognize that religious tyrannies, extremist groups, or extremist populations – does not mean that you can treat all Muslims as a homogeneous violent group.

  • Frank

    Paulsays serves up a typical Islamic taqiyya argument.  It works like this:  Children are peaceful and innocent, and, some Muslims are children, and therefore, ergo, then all Muslims must be peaceful and innocent!  One tires of this refusal to face the facts of the Islamic religion.  So Paulsays, Are you denying that Churches cannot be built in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries? Are you denying the persecution of Copts in Egypt?  Are you denying the Church bombings in Iraq?  Are you denying the persecution of that Christian pastor in Iran?  Are you denying the 750 Church bombings in Indonesia? Are you denying that Sharia forbids a basic human right, Freedom of Religion?  Are you denying the miserable conditions that Christians have in every Islamic Country?  Where are you?  Why the apologetics for Islam?  Why the continued defense of the Indefensible?  Islam MUST change.  It must allow Freedom of Religion, Freedom of choice, and Freedom of Speech.  There is no alternative.  Muslims are allowed Freedom of Religion in the West.  We have to insist that our fellow Christians may also be free to celebrate their religion in Islamic Countries.  No more excuses….Paulsays, I’ll put it directly to you:  Are you for this?  Are you for the right of Christians? 

  • Anonymous

    I talk about children to hopefuly get you to stop and think for a minute. To stop refering to many billions of people – young and old, beliving or non-believing, those with moderate views and those with more extreme views – as one homogenous group.
    You simply cannot do this.

    Think – If you had been born into a Muslim country – You would have been a Muslim yourself.

    Your constant false assumptions are quite fascinating. Where tell me did I ‘deny the persecution of that Christian pastor in Iran’ or ‘ denying the Church bombings in Iraq’?

    I don’t ask you why did you deny that the Norwegian mass murderer was a Christian. No, because I don’t believe that you are implying otherwise, and neither am I in terms of terrible crimes that you are talking about.

  • Anonymous

    Ttaqiyya – ‘is a practice emphasized in Shi’a Islam whereby adherents may conceal their religion when they are under threat, persecution, or compulsion. This means a legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny his faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are under those risks.’

    I am a Catholic, so I really can’t see how this applies.

  • Frank

    You, as a Catholic, know that the first great Catholic Congregations were in Turkey.  Now, Turkey is 99.8% Muslim, according to demographic sources.  But, don’t worry, Paulsays, this couldn’t possibly happen in YOUR country…It’s OK, Paulsays, relax. Enjoy the forced conversion of Britain and Europe to Islam, coming in a few decades, very much helped along by people like you. 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know where you get your figure from, but it is around 90% of Turks are Muslim. Which ‘demographic sources’ are you refering to?

    To support your claim of mass-conversion you would need to have some infomation regarding how many British born people of a non-Muslim background actually are converting to Islam.

    You cannot simply speculate on the occurance, or future occurance of a mass conversion, before having some facts. I cannot imagine it being more than a few thousand at most. Feel free to prove me otherwise.

  • Frank

    Religious Population Demographics of Turkey:
    Turkish government :  99.8% MuslimBBC:  99% MuslimCIA factbook:  99.8% MuslimWikipedia:  96.8% Muslim
    National Geographic:  MuslimNationmaster:  99% Muslim

    Now, like Paulsays, I don’t believe that any large group of people, regardless of nationality, ethnicity,or religion, can be so characterized as being 100% of any demographic.  But, it does demonstrate the coercive nature of Islam, and that there is not freedom of religion in any Islamic nation. If you live in Turkey, you are Muslim, and stated to be so by the Turkish Government.  And if you are Christian, expect to see your Church attacked and the land confiscated, and the priests assaulted and killed.  You say this isn’t true? Then how is it, that the great early century bastion of Christianity, was converted to Islamic Turkey of today?  There is only one answer: Islamic force and coercion. 

    One notices your general approach, based on general kindness and decency towards Muslims, which is, of course, the correct Christian attitude.  But we have to be aware, and this is fact based, that our fellow Christians in Islamic countries are suffering miserable persecution at the hands of Muslims.  I have a friend who has an Indonesian wife.  When they go to Mass in Indonesia, there is palpable fear – so many Churches have been attacked…  It’s useless for Paulsays to try to paper over this problem, with a kind of general feel goodiness and a vague “lets be tolerant, shall we, towards our fellow humans”
    The problem is that, Christianity worldwide is foundering in a rising tide of Islamic violence and intolerance.

     Islamic intolerance must be frankly recognized, so the problem can be corrected.  Islam must end Jihad, and allow religious freedom. There is no option here.   So here’s one solution:  When we, as Catholics, evangelize Muslims, we should certainly adapt Paulsays approach of polite kindness.  But, Paulsays, how about you frankly admitting the Islamic persecution?  How about pressing for one reciprocal action from Muslims?  For example, let’s insist that Churches can be built in Saudi Arabia.  That would be a very positive step forward.  And, let’s end any possibility of Sharia in the West.  We cannot allow Sharia.There is no choice. We can’t be “tolerant” here.  Sharia cannot be allowed.

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