In her September 27th Daily Beast column, Kirsten Powers drew attention to the woeful silence of the American church in the face of a global epidemic of Christian persecution. She offered a litany of examples of Christian persecution including the recent oppression of Syrian Christians who’ve suffered at the hands of rebel extremists and the two-thirds of Christians who have left Iraq in order to survive.
“Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity,” she wrote. “One would think the horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening.”
Powers deftly exposes the what—American Christians’ failure to advocate for their brothers and sisters around the world—but her column begs the question of why. Namely, why aren’t Western Jesus-followers more aware or engaged on this issue. As I see it, there are at least three reasons:
1) The Media
I am not one who believes there is a concerted, cryptic liberal bias in the media. Firstly, I nurture no illusions that there is such a thing as “unbiased news”. (A person cannot be completely divorced from their experiences or worldview, so the goal in journalism is not to eliminate bias but rather to minimize it.) And secondly, I have come to know too many journalists, columnists and reporters at too many outlets who are genuine in their attempt to deliver an accurate picture of reality to their readers. “Bias” is often what we call a message that doesn’t square with our imaginations of the way the world is or should be.
And yet, I do think Christian persecution is under-reported by the media in general. Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute says that persecution, if you include discrimination, is affecting approximately 600 to 700 million Christians globally. According to a 2011 Pew Forum study, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world with followers of the faith being actively harassed in 130 countries.
If a population of half a billion people are so blatantly oppressed, it’s difficult to understand why it isn’t making much news? The answer, in my opinion, is the location where much of the persecution occurs: the Middle East. Many journalists I speak with seem timid to delve too deeply into the topic or to report on it too often for fear of being perceived as Islamaphobes or outright racists.
I agree with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who remarked in USA Today that the persecution of Christians in the Middle East is “one of the most undercovered stories in international news.” People can’t advocate for issues they aren’t aware of and, to borrow from the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:14, “how will they hear if no one tells them.”