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Mar 15

The Global War and a Personal Challenge

Posted on Saturday, March 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

GlobalWarOnChristians-198x300Remember when you started hearing about human trafficking and thought it might be a myth, the words of kooks, fanatics or fear-mongers? I do. I was wrong.

John L. Allen, Jr. calls out, “time to wake up.” He intends to dispel another wave of ignorance. Published in 2013, The Global War on Christians is current, detailed, epic in scope and compelling.

This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: the global war on Christians. We’re not talking about a metaphorical ‘war on religion’ in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it’s okay to erect a nativity scene on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment, and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. However counter-intuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as a powerful and sometimes oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence.

Why are Christians persecuted and martyred?

Allen claims that Christians are the most persecuted persons of faith on the planet for a few simple, easy to grasp reasons:
1. Christianity is the largest religion on the planet
2. Christians live on all continents in significant numbers
3. Christians are visible; often seeking attention to add converts
4. Christians are associated with imperialism and disliked for it
5. Christianity is a belief system and a culture which may be unwelcome
6. Christians have been counter-cultural opponents to injustice
7. Christians have been outspoken opponents to crime and immorality
8. Christians often do not retaliate against violence
9. Christianity is (mistakenly) associated with Western culture
10. Christianity is a threat to the exclusive loyalty totalitarian states demand

Full disclosure: When I chose to read and review The Global War on Christians by John Allen I was stretching my level of comfort. I was concerned that I might hate the book, or I’d find that that the book was a too painful and heart-wrenching to read. I was most concerned that I’d think the author was a fraud or a kook.

Did I Hate The Book?

Some books take hours to read. Others a day, a week or a month. The Global War on Christians by John Allen took more than a month.

The book is a pretty easy read, the subject is not.

In the opening chapters Allen details anti-Christian persecution on a truly global scale. His data and biographies cover Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Allen tells many, many stories of martyred and persecuted Christians with neither sensationalism nor sentimentality. They are painful to read. In Egypt, Muslims poured sulfuric acid on Coptic Christians’ cross tattoos in order to remove them. In India, mobs carried out a pogrom (an organized massacre) of Christians. In Pakistan, a Christian faces death for drinking from a “Muslim” well. In Ivory Coast, two Christian brothers are crucified.

I felt frustrated  that i was ignorant about these and other stories. I’m glad Allen brought them to light.

Allen addresses five themes he calls myths regarding Christian persecution:

The Myth that Christians are at Risk Only Where They’re a Minority
The Myth That No One Saw it Coming
The Myth that its all about Islam
The Myth that its only Persecution if the Motives are Religious
The Myth that Anti-Christian Persecution is a Political Issue

I found it helpful to think through those issues.

Was The Book Too Painful To Read?

Allen presents his material in facts and figures. The statistical data gives the reader a break when Allen alternates the data and the drama of reading each account.

I appreciated his reasoned and balanced perspective.

For example, Sister Dorothy Stang was killed as part of the “clash of civilizations.” Allen argues that in considering whether or not she can be counted as a victim of Christian persecution, we must consider her motives as victim as well as that of the attackers. Sister Stang was murdered in the Amazon for helping poor farmers to resist land grabs by rich, powerful ranchers, and for raising awareness of the environmental price of deforestation. She read the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers” to her killers.

His observation and opinion seem well-informed. His prose is both sweeping and sensitive. Though a Catholic, Allen acknowledges that the persecution of Protestants in Mexico is “often fueled by traditionalist groups of Catholics who see the mushrooming evangelical and Pentecostal footprint in the country as a threat to Mexico’s Catholic identity.”

Did I Think the Author Was a Kook or a Fraud?

This was a bigger concern for me than the subject matter, I hate reviewing books in which I question the author’s credibility. I want to trust that what I read is truthful.

John L. Allen, Jr. is an associate editor of the Boston Globe, specializing in news about the Catholic Church. His resume includes work as a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and as an analyst of Vatican affairs for CNN and NPR.

I thought to myself, “if Allen is a kook, at least he’s a gainfully employed one.” Well, fortunately, Allen is believable. He’s detailed, well-researched, and credible. I read believing Allen, and then checked some of his references. They also seemed credible.

What Can Be Done?

That’s, of course, the most important question.  I wish the answers were more just, fair, compassionate and immediate.
– Pray for those being persecuted
– Raise awareness that persecution and martyrdom is a current reality
– Think globally, especially about the Church
– Engage in micro-charity by giving aid to individuals and smaller persecuted groups
– Actively participate in humanitarian relief
– Be informed and involved politically
– Assist in resettling refugees
– Engage in partnerships with the emerging world church to church

Conclusion: I’m glad I read this book. I hope that awareness leads to justice and mercy rather than violence and bigotry as readers read it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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