When a large group is subject to murder, robbery, rape and vandalism and also denied civil liberties, property rights, the ability to vote, as well as education, healthcare and access to legal redress, you’d think it might be trending … especially if it’s been going on for decades. But you’d be wrong. The fact is, in Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Cuba, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Malaysia, Indonesia, North Korea, Uzbekistan, China, Vietnam, and Lebanon (to name just a few places) it’s been open season on Christians for decades.
One reason it’s not trending is because of the silence of the victims’ natural allies. "Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity,” Kirsten Powers wrote last week in the Daily Beast. “One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening."
At least as deafening, though, has been the silence of Western secular journalists. Sometimes, yes, reporters cover the murder of Christians, at least when the fatalities get into double or triple figures. But mostly there is just silence. There are at least two reasons the Fourth Estate ignores the global, chronic abuse of Christians.
First, it’s a matter of virtual religious faith that Christianity’s essential quality is its utility as a tool of the "white European oppressor." No journalist would ever say this in an editorial meeting, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if this vestige of colonialism ceased to taint any non-Western region where it has taken root. That same tacit “good riddance” sensibility permeates a field related to journalism. Writing last year in the New York Times, Paul Elie said, “Christian belief figures into literary fiction in our place and time, as something between a dead language and a hangover.”
Secondly, reporters tune this out because of who is doing the slaughtering. Perhaps it's a relic of the George W. Bush era, but Westerners feel (rightly so) that our government has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Muslims on its hands. Think Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else our drones patrol and our cruise missiles cruise. As the guilty party, we must speak ever so gingerly about our government’s victims, even when -- or especially when – those victims behave badly. Thus, a videotaped torture and murder by Muslim insurgents of a Syrian Christian because he wouldn’t say “Allahu akbar” ["God is great"] barely registers in many Western newsrooms. That guilt also underlies journalism’s insistence on obscuring rather than illuminating news. When lots of people die in a Muslim suicide attack, the culprit is never described as a Muslim but rather as a "terrorist,” as if we might be dealing with a mob of angry Presbyterians. Given where the secularized West sees itself in this moral hierarchy, to use the "M" word in reference to a mass-murdering suicide bomber would smack of moral chauvinism or even Islamophobia, not serious journalism.
Of course, there are other reasons the media isn’t paying attention. But these two – seeing Christianity as essentially a tool of white colonialism for which penance or at least contrition is due and guilt over the slaughter of Muslims – need not in every situation hinder the press from its reportorial duty or force it into using euphemisms. Imagine if members of Greece's neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party started killing Greek Orthodox priests en masse. Is there any media outlet that would tip-toe around that? Of course not. And why not? Because Golden Dawn is beneath Western journalists in the secular world's moral hierarchy. Raking fascists – and you can bet that reporters would use the word “fascists” -- over the coals in public would be the opposite of moral chauvinism; it would be genuinely serious journalism.
Mike Obel works as Senior Editor, Copy Chief. Before that he was Markets Editor, assigning, editing and writing about business, markets, finance and economics. Before coming...