Culture

While World Focuses on ‘Islamophobia,’ Christians Live Precarious Existence in Muslim Lands

(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Everyone is worried about “Islamophobia”: New Jersey’s unlikeliest new state senator-elect just apologized for criticizing Islam; Muslim leaders in Canada want the Ontario government to be more proactive against “Islamophobia”; and a mosque leader in London recently charged that Muslim women in Britain live in fear of “racism.” Meanwhile, in Pakistan several days ago, Muslims fired upon Christians in an attempt to seize their lands; in Nigeria, Muslims kidnapped over one hundred Christians; and in Egypt, two Muslim brothers murdered a Christian shopkeeper because of his faith. The Muslim persecution of Christians has rarely been as virulent or widespread as it is today, yet it gets little attention. That’s why a new book by Casey Chalk, The Persecuted: True Stories of Courageous Christians Living Their Faith in Muslim Lands (Sophia Institute Press), is a breath of fresh air and a welcome dose of realism in an international public discourse increasingly dominated by sloganeering and propaganda.

Chalk explained to me that this much-needed book had its genesis in encounters he had with Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Bangkok, Thailand, where he and his wife moved in 2014. “The very first Sunday that we attended Mass,” he told me, “I immediately noticed a substantial number of South Asians. We soon befriended several Pakistani families at our parish, and became intimately familiar with their stories of persecution, suffering, and loss. While in Thailand, and since returning to the United States in 2017, I’ve written articles about their plight for many Christian and conservative publications. Sophia Institute Press graciously agreed to help turn their stories — and my reflections on the broader global problem they represent — into The Persecuted.”

It’s more than just gracious. It’s urgent, as most Americans are completely unfamiliar with the plight of these Christians, which has been criminally underreported. Yet “the Pakistani Christians I now count as friends,” Chalk recounts, “have endured terrible trauma. Some have been shot at, others set on fire by angry militant mobs, and others beaten within an inch of their lives. Many have female family members or friends who have been abducted by extremists and forcibly married to Muslim men, something local authorities rarely do anything about.”

Local authorities rarely act because more often than not, they sympathize more with the attackers than with their victims. But in the establishment media narrative, Christians are always white oppressors and Muslims are always and in every case victims, and stories that don’t fit that paradigm get quickly consigned to the memory hole. One story that did get international attention was that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent years on death row in Pakistan on false accusations of blasphemy before finally having her conviction overturned and being able to leave the country. According to Chalk, she was just one of many. “What is particularly alarming,” he says, “is how similar these stories are to that of Asia Bibi. That similarity, I would argue, demonstrates that their experience is not an anomaly. Christians, not only in Pakistan, but across the Muslim world, from North Africa to Indonesia, are experiencing the same kinds of mistreatment. With a few exceptions like China and North Korea, almost all of the worst places to be a Christian in the world are in Muslim majority countries.”

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Not everyone is indifferent to this. Chalk observes: “I actually think global Christian persecution is a topic that American Christians, at least conservative evangelicals and orthodox Catholics, know at least something about. There are a lot of great organizations aimed at helping the persecuted church, and America’s faithful have often made their voices heard, for example when the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant were terrorizing ancient Christian populations.”

Nonetheless, ignorance and indifference are still massive obstacles that persecuted Christians face. “It’s also a crisis that’s easy to forget about,” Chalk notes, “given both the distance and remoteness of these problems.” There are other problems as well: “A few years ago, some of my articles on the subject were briefed to a congressional subcommittee. Muslim politician Ilhan Omar, who was on that subcommittee, downplayed the plight of oppressed Christian communities and claimed that it’s Muslims who are suffering the most religious persecution globally. That’s unequivocally inaccurate. Christians need to work to keep the record straight.”

That remains an uphill battle in the face of the prevailing indifference. “It’s difficult to remember daily,” says Chalk, “that while we as Christians in America are still having conversations and debates about the role of our faith in public life, Christians in many countries are yearning simply for the freedom to worship in their churches without fear of violent reprisal and to walk the streets unmolested. Mainstream corporate media in this country also do us no favors — as I argue in The Persecuted, coverage of Christian persecution is very limited, and when journalists take the time to report on it, they often get many of the details wrong. Following the daily news cycle, one rarely, if ever, hears about persecuted Christians.”

Indeed. But now Chalk has struck a massive blow against this by giving us The Persecuted. It’s the perfect gift for every establishment media journalist, and a powerful weapon to bring those who are beguiled by fantasy propaganda back to reality.