By Spencer D Gear
The Bible Society Australia has drawn attention to this absence of reporting Christian persecution by publishing this article by Patrick Sookhdeo in which he stated: ‘In a world where mainstream media largely ignore the plight of Christians, we must make sure we stay informed. We must advocate politically for believers in need, and we must share with them the material blessings God has given us. Above all, we must pray continually (1 Thess 5:17)’ (‘A prayer for the persecuted church’, 28 December 2013).
Could you imagine the following newsworthy story appearing without Christians contacting a secular newspaper or news outlet here in Australia (my home country) or in the country where you live? What will it take to get the news media to quit their biases against reporting the abuse that is happening to Christian minorities worldwide?
What about this travesty of justice?
This report comes from the Barnabas Fund, 12 February, 2015:
A Buddhist monk visiting the predominantly Christian Borang village in Nepal’s Dhading district forced all the Christian villagers to convert to Buddhism and ordered them to stop all Christian worship. Two of the church’s leaders refused to obey the orders and were attacked in response.
Commissioned by a political leader from the RPP Hindu nationalist party, a Buddhist monk came to the village to preach Buddhism. All of the Christian villagers were locked inside a hall and forced to listen to the Buddhist teachings and to accept Buddhism. They were asked to bow down before a statue, go around the village carrying Buddhist scriptures on their heads, and to place Buddhist flags on their houses.
Refusing to obey the orders, the pastor and elder of the church were attacked. Although the church elder managed to escape, the pastor was captured and beaten for three days. He was then forced to place his finger print on a document stating that he would stop running the church and that he would not report the incident to police authorities or leave the village.
Led by the Buddhist monk, a group of assailants attacked the church on 1 February. They destroyed the furniture and church building and tried to set fire to it. They also attacked the pastor’s home, cutting off the electricity and phone lines. Not allowed to use the phone or leave the village, the pastor is still in Borang. Local Christians told Barnabas Fund today that they are particularly concerned about the health of the church pastor since there is no information about his current condition. The church was unable to meet the following Saturday, the normal day for worship services across Nepal.
Although local police were sent from Setung to the village to find out what happened, the locals, under pressure from the attackers, reported that there had been no problems. The police then returned to Setung without reporting the incident.
Although Nepal is over 80% Hindu, Buddhism holds close ties to the majority religion; the birthplace of its founder is said to be in Lumbini, southern Nepal. Dhading district, however, has the highest number of Nepali Christians, with some villages almost entirely Christian.
Can you imagine that kind of story appearing in our Australian secular media without a Christian prompt? I’ve been so concerned at this lack of coverage that on 23 January 2015, I sent this letter via email to the editor of the Brisbane Times .
I read the Brisbane Times online every morning and I’ve read plenty about the Charlie Hebdo magazine terrorism and the killing of 12 people in Paris. But I’ve not heard the same kind of news coverage about what else is happening in other countries as a result of the Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Muhammad. It could be that I have missed your coverage because I could miss some of your news stories. However, could it be that Zinder and Niamey, cities in Niger, are not as large on the news radar as Paris?
However, I think it’s time that you gave extensive coverage to the violence that is happening in other countries as a result of the Charlie Hebdo cartoon. Here is but one example that has reached me via email.
In two days of targeted riots that began on 16 January 2015, violence across the northern African country of Niger has left ten people dead and over 70 churches are reported to have been destroyed. The rioters were protesting against the publication of a cartoon of Muhammad on the front cover of the French Charlie Hebdo magazine in France. More riots and protests occurred across many Muslim-majority countries, including many former French colonies.
Following Friday prayers on 16 January, hundreds of mainly young Muslim extremists took to the streets in Zinder, Niger’s second largest city, burning and destroying all of the city’s churches, as well as the homes of Christians.
The next day, more than 55 churches, pastors’ homes, Christian schools and Christian organisations were burned or destroyed in the capital city, Niamey, as rioters targeted Christians and French-related businesses.
Ten people have been killed in the weekend attacks, one of whom was burned inside a church. And more than 200 Christian families are now being housed in military camps. The army has been deployed and the homes of Christians have been identified and secured. With the authorities overwhelmed by the scale of the violence, Christians have been told to stay together, just in case.
I obtained this information from the Barnabas Fund. If you want further details, including an interview, please contact:
PO BOX 3527,
LOGANHOLME, QLD 4129
I also gave him the phone and fax numbers and the email address.
Perhaps it is not surprising that I did not receive a response to this email from the editor and a search by Google has not found any of my letter published online. Reporting of the persecution of Christians around the world does not seem to be a favourite topic for the secular media.
More information from Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo (public domain)
Dr Sookhdeo is the international director of the Barnabas Fund. He has a range of articles dealing with persecution of Christians on his own website: Patrick Sookhdeo. In his article, War on Christians (1 Peter 5:8-10), Dr Sookhdeo states:
The world has stood by and looked on. Leaders have condemned but procrastinated. Now the call is to arms: to bomb, to obliterate the Islamic State. But what of the Christian community? They have met with much sympathy. Many politicians and media commentators have expressed their concern for Christians, but still no decisive action has been taken to save them. The real problem is that the Christians have no power, and because of this they are deemed irrelevant. They have no weapons, therefore they are deemed to be no threat. They have no oil, so they have no economic weight. For some politicians it seems better that the Christians should leave the Middle East, for then at least they would not be a complication in the situation.
Patrick Sookhdeo did get mass media coverage in 2004 with The Age newspaper, Melbourne, ‘Islam, the West and the need for honesty’ (October 16). Part of this story, read,
Both sides face hard choices if further slaughter is to be prevented, an outspoken Anglican cleric and authority on radical jihadists tells Tony Parkinson.
According to Patrick Sookhdeo, it is time for plain speaking. If the world is not to become a sectarian slaughterhouse, Western and Islamic societies need to address with honesty the hard choices they face.
“I think the West has made a strategic mistake in seeking to distinguish al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden from the rest of Islam, by arguing they are extremists, and therefore cannot be authentic Muslims,” he says. “This is highly questionable.
“Bin Laden and his people come from an Islamic tradition where jihad is a cardinal principle in the fight against unbelievers. The fact is they have had tremendous backing from Muslims worldwide, many of whom regard bin Laden as a hero.
“In dealing with Islam, you have to tell the truth, and you have to meet it head on. You have to expose and confront the twisted interpretations that encourage, for example, suicidal terror.”
Sookhdeo is an Anglican clergyman based in Britain. He is also an international authority on jihadist ideology, a former Muslim, an author and a lecturer to British and NATO military officers on radical Islam. With many Muslims claiming their religion is being distorted by terrorists and the West, some of his views are controversial, or easily distorted. But during a visit to Australia this week, Sookhdeo insisted that honest dialogue was essential and the need for change urgent. Modern Muslim societies must rethink the more literal interpretations of the Koran, he argues, particularly the elevation of the 7th century edicts of Muhammad at Medina over the prophet’s earlier and more peaceable revelations at Mecca.
What about the Christian community? What will it take for Christian leaders to get off their procrastinating backside and act to deal with what is happening to the Christian communities that are being persecuted?
When will the Australian secular mass media determine that abuse of Christians (persecution) cannot be tolerated any longer and that they will expose this abuse whenever possible, whether it is in Niger, Pakistan, India or Kenya?
Patrick Sookhdeo, ‘Yes, I criticise certain aspects of Islam, but don’t call me a bigot’ (The Guardian, 27 October 2011).
‘Plight of Middle Eastern Christians’, Rebecca Armstrong, ABC North West Queensland’ (17 October 2013).
Patrick Sookhdeo, ‘The myth of moderate Islam’ (The Spectator, 30 July 2005).
Please pray for the persecuted church but don’t forget to act for them
‘Conditional release for Iranian Christian convert’ (10 Feb 2015);
How many of you have contacted your local federal MP to ask what he or she could do in parliament to deal with the persecution issues in many countries? What could the Department of Foreign Affairs do? Imagine a debate on this issue in the Australian federal parliament? Or am I dreaming?
In a comment on the ACL (Australian Christian Lobby) site, Craig Kirk wrote:
Christian Persecution is certainly a world problem, I do a little bit presenting topics on the Persecuted Church in my church on a monthly basis. The persecution is pandemic and in some countries is genocide, unfortunately our liberal press do very little covering this Human Rights Atrocity, in many ways apathy in the West is a shame. The Situation is similar to the atrocities suffered by the minorities in Europe during the 1930- 1940’s while the West remained quiet (‘Persecution of Christians: Dr Patrick Sookhdeo speaking at Barnabas Fund event in Sydney’, 25 Sept 2012).
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.