Attacks on Holy Land Christians

Communities suffer amid Western silence

One of the most urgent and compelling situations which faces us in 2014 is the plight of Christians in the Biblical lands. It is truly alarming and upsetting.

What is especially sad, too, is that so much of the nominally Christian western world has ignored the fact that currently, between seven and eight thousand Christians are killed each year for their faith.

In 139 countries, from Morocco to Pakistan, Christians are not free to practise their religion. The decline in Christian populations has been catastrophic, as they are murdered, or driven out of their native lands.

The situation in Syria is atrocious. There have been Christians in that country since the apostles: but now they are hunted like dogs and their churches bombed and destroyed. Syrian Christians practise their own rite in the Syrian Christian Church, which is wholly indigenous to Syrian culture – it is not the result of Western evangelisation.


Similarly, in Iraq: at the time of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, there were some 300 Christian churches in Iraq. There are now about 57. 

George W. Bush’s (and Tony Blair’s) decision to invade Iraq in 2003 has turned out to be catastrophic for Christians, who are being targeted by militant Islamists as a result – as if they were enemies of their own country, instead of a native culture going back 2,000 years.

Sad to conclude, but Christians – and perhaps  others – were actually better off under the dictator Saddam Hussein. A dictator is not a democratic concept, but the truth is that minorities, in some cases, may be better protected by the iron rule that a dictator presides over. This is not a recommendation for dictatorship: it is a matter of weighing the evidence.

The plight
My son Ed West has written a short, and sometimes distressing, e-book about the plight of the Christians in the biblical lands. He has called it The Silence of Our Friends and it can be downloaded on Kindle for about €1.20 (99p sterling).  I read it just before Christmas and all over the Christmas season I kept thinking about the torment that Christians in the Middle East are enduring, and how hard they have to struggle to mark the Nativity of Christ.

And the silence in the West, too. It took Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Britain, to first raise the matter in the British parliament – he became a vocal opponent of Christian persecution, speaking in the House of Lords.

In December, Charles, Prince of Wales, made a special plea about the terrible situation – a helpful intervention, as Charles is trusted by Muslims, and has maintained a dialogue with peace-loving Islamic sources.

And that’s another salient point: standing by the Christians in the biblical lands is an ecumenical cause: it should unite all Christians, peoples of other faiths, and secularists too.

I hope to God that we may find a way to bring succour to the followers of Jesus Christ in the Middle East: not by warlike means, but with spiritual and material help – the Capuchin, Dominican and Carmelite orders are already involved in doing so. The charity Aid to the Church in Need is also on the ground trying to offer care.

Spread the word of awareness and break that silence of friends.


A deep and personal faith
Dag Hammarskjold was the first Secretary-General of the United Nations who was regarded as a universal figure of importance. The Swedish former diplomat died in a plane crash in Zambia in 1961 in what has always been seen as mysterious circumstances: it might have been an accident, but it could have been murder. He had political enemies, being involved (like the late Conor Cruise OíBrien) in the complexities of the Congo, and its breakaway, Katanga.

A new biography of Dag Hammarskjold (by Roger Lipsey) published in America reveals him to have been a deeply religious person, monastic in his lifestyle, mystical in his cast of mind, and ìsuffused with a deep, personal faithî.

He wrote contemplative passages of prose, such as: “You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind.î And: ìGod does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.”

A good man: we could do with him today.


New Year resolutions

Make New Year resolutions, yes. You’ll break them, but no matter, youíll pick yourself up and youíll try again. It says so in the New Testament and it also says so in Samuel Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”