It's an exaggeration to say that a worldwide war is being waged against Christians. But Christians in Africa and the Middle East are subject to shocking persecution -- real persecution, not the imaginary persecution some American Christians see in the legalization of same-sex marriage or the requirement that employee health plans contain coverage for contraception
Meanwhile, there has been another exodus of Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, now under the control of the fundamentalist Al Qaeda offshoot known as the Islamic State. Christians there were ordered to convert to Islam, leave the city or face death. "For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians," said Patriarch Louis Sako, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
These attacks on Christians are outrageous on two levels.
First, any coercion in matters of religion is wrong. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the
But the attacks on Christians and their exodus from places where they long have dwelt are tragic in a different sense. You don't have to be a Christian chauvinist -- or even a Christian -- to lament the destruction or diminution of ancient Christian communities in the Middle East or North Africa, whether caused by persecution, war or even economic upheaval.
Iraq is a particularly poignant case. Many Christians in Iraq (and Iran) belong to two communities, the Chaldeans and Assyrians, who predate the spread of Islam and follow ancient liturgies with a Semitic rather than Greek or Latin character. In recent years, Western Christians have rediscovered and learned from the traditions of these Christian communities.
The declining Christian presence not just in Iraq but in other parts of the Middle East impoverishes those regions culturally and even economically. As the Los Angeles Times noted in an editorial in 2008, "a vibrant Christian population has benefited predominantly Islamic countries, not least by building cultural, educational and political bridges to the West." Moreover, religious pluralism often brings political pluralism along with it.
There was some controversy when