Europe’s failure to understand the Mideast

When you don’t remember the value of religion in your own history, you won’t appreciate the meaning of religious persecution to other populations.

Fr. Bernardo Cervellera issues this rather scathing account.

After more than three weeks of debate, the EU has managed to produce a text that explicitly mentions Christians as victims of persecution and the object of violent attacks. An earlier text had been prepared in January, after the terrorist attack on the Church in Baghdad and the massacre at the Church in Alexandria, but was it rejected because of the lack of references to Christians, since the EU preferred to use generic term “religious minorities”.

Political correctness rules.

The new text approved yesterday explicitly mentions “Christians and their places of worship” victims of “acts of religious intolerance and discrimination,” but now hastens to include among the victims of such acts “Muslim pilgrims and other religious communities” as well.

(Emphasis added)

Yet even this text does not satisfy in full. It seeks to balance the anti-Christian violence with those against other religious communities, in an “excess” of balance and equidistance, not taking into account that at least 70% of persecution in today’s world is carried out against Christians. Yet these impressive figures are the result of statistics (from the World Christian Encyclopedia to the Pew Research Centre) and not partisan reports, so much so that Pope Benedict XVI used the word “Christianophobia” for the first time in a papal speech…

This is a rare indictment because so few writers will confront this truth. If they even get it.

It is said that the world and Europe have been taken by surprise by the riots in Tunisia, Egypt, etc. .. We think that this blindness is due to the fact that in all these years, the sole motivation for our Europe’s relationship with these countries was its own its narrow economic interests and thus “stability”, not a shared communication of values, attentiveness to social questions, dialogue between cultures and religions. In practice, Europe’s identity was its wallet: and little more.

It takes bankruptcy to restructure. What new structures will look like for Christians is as unsure as the rest of the landscape.

The Mideast story hardly covered

Behind the headlines coming out of Egypt and other countries in political and social upheaval in the Middle East, the story is about human life and striving and destiny, maybe more than it ever was before social communications media empowered these peoples’ revolutions.

Fundamentally, the human right that grounds whatever social or political construct that comes out of it all is the one thing media are hardly mentioning…..religious freedom. Pope Benedict has been talking about it for a long time.

Christians in Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria have been killed in churches, in Pakistan a blasphemy law has become an “excuse to cause injustice and violence”, in China they are experiencing a “moment of difficulty and trial,” in the West they are object of a “growing marginalization” which evens demands the rejection of any “reference to religious and moral convictions.” The list of violations and attacks on religious freedom delivered today by Benedict XI to the representatives of 180 countries and international organizations that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, touches hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The religious dimension is an undeniable and irrepressible feature of man’s being and acting, the measure of the fulfilment of his destiny and of the building up of the community to which he belongs.  Consequently, when the individual himself or those around him neglect or deny this fundamental dimension, imbalances and conflicts arise at all levels, both personal and interpersonal…

This primary and basic truth is the reason why, in this year’s Message for World Day of Peace, I identified religious freedom as the fundamental path to peace.  Peace is built and preserved only when human beings can freely seek and serve God in their hearts, in their lives and in their relationships with others.

Asia News reports that Egyptian Imams and intellectuals get that, and are working on a program of renewing Islam. It’s the unreported revolution.

A score of intellectuals and theologians of Al Azhar have issued a text of enormous importance, entitled “Document for the renewal of religious discourse.” The text was “posted” on the Internet…on the website of the weekly magazine Yawm al-Sâbi’'(“The Seventh Day”). The importance of the document also derives from its signatories, all noted scholars and profoundly committed Muslims.

The outcome of this revolution is as uncertain as the political one. Pope Benedict is watching, and praying, joined by Christians of the Middle East.