As Christians face the threat of violent persecution in Syria, Nigeria, and other countries, speakers at a rally in Rome called on governments to explicitly condemn the violence, and to grant the persecuted full refugee status.
Called “Salviamo i Cristiani” — Save the Christians — the demonstration on July 18 highlighted that, globally, no other group is more persecuted.
The organizers noted that during the course of history, an estimated 70 million Christians have been martyred for their faith, including 40 million in the 20th century alone. They said, each year, 105,000 Christians die as martyrs — one new martyr every minute — killed by Islamic terrorists, Hindus in India, or communists in China, North Korea and Vietnam.
“We’re told about a triumph of democracy and peace,” said Roberto de Mattei of the Lepanto Foundation, a non-profit organization defending the principles and institutions of Western Christian civilization.
“After Sept. 11, they said, Don’t worry, because the politics of dialogue and interreligious peace will prevail. Today, we’re told about the health of the Maghreb, that it is a model of the Arab Spring, showing hope and promise,” the Italian historian said. “But the reality of what is before our eyes is tragically different. Today, we are here to cry out our indignation, and launch our appeal for persecuted Christians.”
In a July 25 interview with Aid to the Church in Need, a Christian charity, the Catholic bishop of Aleppo said fear was widespread that Christians there will be attacked. “If they come in around our churches and round our bishopric, just as they did in Homs, it will be disastrous for us,” said Jesuit Bishop Antoine Audo. “What can we do to protect the people? We do not have any possibility to do that.”
A message from German observers of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic charity, reported July 25 that thousands of Christians were fleeing Syria “not just because of the violence of civil conflict but because they are suffering from attacks by the rebel forces, elements of which are radically Muslim.”
Magdi Cristiano Allam, an Egyptian-born Italian politician who was received into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, used his address at last week’s rally to call on all governments to offer full refugee status to persecuted Christians.
He noted that around the end of the seventh century, 95 percent of the populations on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean were Christian; today they make up just 6 percent of the population, numbering 12 million people. That figure is expected to halve by 2020. “Only if we are strong and certain of our roots, faith, and values can we be respected,” he said.
Asked why governments and the media tend to ignore the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide, Allam told Newsmax it was because they are afraid of Islam and too preoccupied with finance and materialism.
He also criticized President Obama for playing “a fundamental role in the legitimization of radical Islam.” As examples, he cited the administration’s negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Obama’s use of Koranic verses to portray Islam as a moderate religion during his speech in Cairo in 2009.
The rally speakers also noted that Christians not only face violent persecution but also subtler forms in the guise of growing restrictions to religious freedom.
Asked about the Obama administration’s threats to the religious liberty of U.S. Catholics, Allam said: “Obama is undoubtedly an expression of relativism, as we have seen recently in his support for same-sex marriage, his support for abortion.” He added: “[Obama] is a person who wants nothing to do with anyone who puts the person at the centre — the natural family, local communities, values, rules for the common good. Obama represents a danger for our civilization.”
De Mattei acknowledged that in view of Christians’ countercultural witness to the world, persecution is to be expected. But he also stressed that it should be confronted. “The Church has lived with persecution since its origins, also during communism, but the persecutors are bad and we have to resist, to fight,” he said.
Despite Rome being the home of Catholicism, with many monuments to martyrs who died in hatred of the faith over the centuries, the rally only drew about 300 people. But Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, described the event as having “extraordinary importance” and argued that religious freedom should be placed above an emphasis on other civil and political rights.
De Mattei said the event was of “symbolic importance.” If there were no such protests, he said “it would be a scandal.”
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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