Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

West must intervene to protect persecuted Christians

Pope Francis has condemned the persecution of Christians
Pope Francis has condemned the persecution of Christians

In the western world the greatest threat to Christianity is the increasingly secular way of life which pervades society. More and more people it seems are content to cast aside the strictures of their faith, or at best, pay lip service to them.

Yet in other parts of the world thousands of Christians are giving their lives for the sake of their faith. Pope Francis and David Cameron are just two international figures to describe Christianity as the most persecuted religion in the world. Independent observers say that Christians are being oppressed in 110 countries, a truly astonishing figure.

That oppression can take many forms, from the restrictive governments of North Korea, China or Pakistan which try to stamp out practice of the faith, to the barbarism of groups like Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or Boko Haram in Nigeria who wantonly slaughter Christians, and indeed other groups which will not bow to their will.

In recent days our television screens have been full of dreadful images from Iraq of Christians and other groups literally taking to the hills to escape the clutches of the Islamic zealots. Today those of us who are free to practise our faith, of whatever kind, should spare a thought for those persecuted souls who are living in fear of their lives.

Some people might try to use the excesses of groups like Islamic State to stir up anti- Muslim hatred. That also would be persecution. The savage holy war being conducted by Islamic fanatics is not in accordance with the tenets of Islam and is rejected roundly by their fellow Muslims in the West.

Given the scale of the oppression suffered by Christians around the world, it is up to the largely Christian Western countries to come to their aid. They cannot continue to turn a blind eye.

They must use whatever powers are appropriate to ensure freedom to practise religion and safety of life. Military intervention in Iraq where Islamic fanatics are trying to set up a Middle Eastern superstate is justified given the barbaric behaviour of the extremists.

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