02 November 2013

A book you should read: The Global War on Christians

In his new book The Global War on Christians: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, John L. Allen, Jr. discusses what he says "is in many ways the greatest story never told" (243).  This is, he admits, a bit of an exaggeration because the real "problem in the global war on Christians is not that no one is reporting what's happening.  It's rather that far too few people are paying attention" (27).

Despite various news outlets reporting on instances of Christian persecution, most people in the West (and throughout the world) are unaware that:
  • 100,000,000 Christians "worldwide presently face interrogation, arrest, torture, or even death" (4);
  • 100,000 Christians were killed per year between 2000 and 2010 (4);
  • since the death of Jesus, 70,000,000 Christians have been killed for their faith in Christ;
  • of those, 45,000,000 - 50% - were killed in the 20th century [the 1900s] (32-33); 
  • between 2006 and 2010, Christians were persecuted in 139 countries (34);
  • 80% of religious persecution today is against Christians (9); and,
  • in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, Christian persecution has increased 309% since 2003 (36).
Throughout The Global War on Christians Allen relates individual instances of such persecution and provides an overview of the current situation in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, often even breaking down his overview by country.

As I read the book I knew many of the stories already because I had either written about them on this blog or at Persecution Watch.  I felt conflicted, both because I knew so many of the stories and because there were many more I did not know.  He is right to describe this war as "the world's best-kept secret" (15).

Longtime readers of his column in the National Catholic Reporter will be aware of Allen's ability to cut to the heart of an issue, to separate and distinguish with clarity and objectivity.  He brings this same skill to The Global War on Christians, repeatedly examining questions to determine where the war is being fought:
The mere fact that Christians are harmed someplace does not ipso facto mean they were harmed because they are Christian.  It's equally fallacious both to dismiss religion as a casual factor and to privilege it over to others.
At the same time, a one-sided focus on the motives of the perpetrators of violence can also produce a badly skewed picture.  When someone is threatened or harmed, there are usually two questions to ask: First, what are the motives of the attackers?  Second, did the victim make choices that placed himself or herself at risk, and if so, why (13)?
These two questions must be asked in examining this war because, as Allen rightly notes, "to ignore threats against Christians because they're not explicitly is, therefore, to miss the forest for the trees" (14).  It is clarity of thought that has gained Allen the respect of many.

Throughout the book, Allen discusses why the war on Christians is so little known, what it is and what it isn't, and what forms it takes in various places.

We might well ask why he decided to write this book when so many others have not written on this important reality.  The answer is quite simple: "there's something so precious about faith in Christ and membership in the church that, when push comes to shove, ordinary people will pay in blood rather than let go" (21).  Allen has told their stories well.

Why should you read this book?  Because the truth is always important to investigate and because "the stories of the martyrs have a deep spiritual resonance, and when people are exposed to them, they often come away changed" (266).

No comments:

Post a Comment