понедельник, 18 ноября 2013 г.

Too many martyrs or too few?


Mourners carrying coffins in Egypt
In a recent article on the BBC news website, a journalist 'debunked' the recent claim that 100 thousand Christians are martyred every year. Claiming to know the sources behind the said statistic and reinterpreting 90% of the figure as political, rather than religious, the journalist in question cut down annual Christian martyrdom to a 'mere' 10 thousand per year. Even 10 thousand a year is still a lot of innocent victims.

I would be the first to be wary of sensational statistics. The Brit in me is always happiest to understate a case rather than 'shooting oneself in the foot' with an overstated claim. Given the BBC's advocacy of other minority causes around the world (i.e. priortising air-time and web-space in their favour), it does seem rather incongruous to be so anxious to dress down the claims of the Christian church. The reality is that the world's oldest broadcaster does a slick line in truth management. At times the BBC can be very insightful about what goes on around the world. But more often than not the BBC has an axe to grind and special interests to protect. And in the world of 24 hour news and soft power, there are few stronger arguments for a cause than martyrs, real or imagined.

I am a Christian and so I am going to be biased, but it does seem to me to be pretty obvious that, while by no means unique in the world, Christian minorities are one of those groups which experience more than their fair share of persecution around the world. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that indigenous Christians have been (and continue to be) driven out of their homelands in the Middle East (Egypt, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere). That's not to mention the fate of Christian converts in Muslim-majority countries. As I read and interact with current affairs around the world this does seem to be a fact neglected by otherwise savvy sources.

Putting my head above the parapet, it would be interesting to compare the statistics for religious persecution around the world with, say, persecution on the basis of sexuality. I should make it absolutely clear than I am opposed to any form of stigmatisation or violence towards any minority groups. However, living outside of the UK for the best part of 10 years, one cannot fail to notice that stories of homophobic violence in countries such as Nigeria never seem to be out of the news. Are there any statistics available for annual 'martyrdom' on the basis of sexuality? I am happy to stand corrected, but my guess is that the figures would fell well short of 10, never mind 100 thousand deaths per year.

Stories of Christian persecution in places like Pakistan, Nigeria and elsewhere are now finally getting some coverage. Is the BBC's article an attempt to prevent this coverage becoming too prominent, competing with other more palatable causes? Might this not be because the persecution of Christians is somewhat out of place in the dominant narrative of much news coverage. After all religious 'fanatics' are the warmongers and persecutors, not the persecuted, right? 

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