Saturday, July 17, 2010

Christian Persecution (again)

It was just a few days ago that we updated the ongoing, world-wide persecution story (link here) with an array of recent accounts of Christians experiencing attacks, killings, beatings and imprisonment because of their faith.

The National Review has brought another horrible story of persecution to our attention - a story which details the Roman Catholic bishop, who was serving as apostolic vicar of Anatolia - who was brutally stabbed to death and decapitated:

"Turkey: Christians in Danger"

For all the attention Turkey has gotten lately, very few Americans are aware that the Roman Catholic bishop serving as apostolic vicar of Anatolia was stabbed to death and decapitated last month by an assailant shouting, “Allahu Akbar! I have killed the great Satan!”

There are fewer than 60 Catholic priests in all of Turkey, and yet Bishop Luigi Padovese was the fifth of them to be shot or stabbed in the last four years, starting with the murder of Fr. Andrea Santoro in 2006, also by an assailant shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” (An Armenian journalist and three Protestants working at a Christian publishing house — one of them German, the other two Turkish converts — were also killed during this period.)

What’s going on? Why has traditionally secularist Turkey, with its minuscule Christian community (less than 0.2 percent of the population), lately become nearly as dangerous for Christians as neighboring Iraq? And why has this disturbing pattern of events so far escaped notice in the West?

In a nutshell, all these violent acts reflect a popular culture increasingly shaped by Turkish media accounts deliberately promoting hatred of Christians and Jews.

There are vanishingly few Christians and Jews in Turkey.

Turkey’s population (roughly 77 million) is more than 99.8 percent Muslim, with its tiny Jewish and Christian populations (perhaps 25,000 and 150,000, respectively) looking like a rounding error.

The short answer to the question why Christians keep getting attacked in Turkey is that ideas have consequences, with bad ones often leading to deadly consequences. In the current issue of Commentary, Michael Rubin offers a masterly step-by-step analysis of the way in which Turkey’s current Islamist rulers have systematically undermined and dismantled Atatürk’s secular legacy and have put in place an embryonic Islamist state. Ideas once expressed on the fringes of Turkish society have now become mainstream and respectable.

This current situation in Turkey underscores the fact that they are firmly aligned with Iran in their common hatred of Israel as well. But this article touched on an obvious question - a question that I have as I read these articles involving persecution:

But it’s also a fact that the killing of Catholic clerics in Muslim-majority states tends nowadays in the West to be passed over in silence or treated as business as usual. Imagine for a moment what would happen if — God forbid! — a very senior, foreign-born Muslim cleric were murdered in the U.S. in circumstances amounting to a hate crime. It is not difficult to imagine the likely aftermath: wall-to-wall media coverage, repeated international condemnations, and multiple presidential apologies.

Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, whose Asia News broke the story of the true facts surrounding the bishop’s murder, maintains that “there’s a campaign against Christian priests in Turkey. The government says it’s not true, the Turks say they don’t believe it, but it’s quite enough to watch television or read the newspapers to realize that indeed it is true.”

These facts — and their necessary implications — are a long way from the Islam-is-a-religion-of-peace happy talk peddled by both the Bush and Obama administrations. Little wonder that there’s practically no understanding in the U.S. that Turkey’s beleaguered religious minorities — and their co-religionists elsewhere in the region — serve as canaries in the coal mine, bellwethers for major policy shifts that our foreign-policy establishment is slow to grasp. Or indeed that the plight of these minorities mirrors, at least roughly, the state of U.S. interests and ideals in the region.

The sad part of this story - to a prophecy-watcher - is the fact that this is just the beginning of what is to come. As we observe with most signs, we are witnessing the road to the Tribulation being paved. What we are now seeing is just foreshadowing of the massive, extreme persecution which will be institutionalized by the antichrist during the Tribulation.

We need to always remember to pray for these incredibly brave and faithful Christians - who are - at this very moment - involved in various forms of persecution across the world. However, there is good news in all of this - and it comes from our savior - Jesus Himself:

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12).

God hasn't forgotten those brave souls. He is watching closely and He will ensure that their efforts are greatly rewarded - as they should be.

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