By Charles Newington, FamilyVoice Australia National Director
A serious infection that is common globally is now starting to manifest in Australia. It accounts for the death of 250 people every month and the suffering of 215 million people globally last year. However, the mainstream media and most political leaders don’t think it is important enough to report or comment on.
Occasionally something will appear like the BBC’s report recently that the UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review into the plight of persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the UK.
The review, led by the Bishop of Truro, will look at government efforts to help some of the 215 million Christians who faced discrimination and violence last year, according to the UK Foreign Office.
Foreign Office officials noted that violence against Christians is rising dramatically and Mr Hunt said the UK "must do more". "Britain has long championed international religious freedom," he said. It may seem un-Christian to restate his comment as it sounds in our ears: “Britain has long (ago) championed international religious freedom (but not for a while as it creates difficulties with some trading partners and in marginal electorates.)”
Mr Hunt also made this helpful observation: "So often, the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority."
The UK Foreign Minister describes the growing violence against Christians as the canary in the coal mine to warn that people other than Christians may soon be targeted. It may seem an un-Christian inference again but it sounds like Christians suffering is unfortunate but not as politically important as the suffering of other minorities.
The victimisation of the Rohingas, Yazidis, Ahmadis, Gypsies, Jews, Tibetans, Uighurs and others is totally unacceptable. It seems that the world has stopped listening for the canaries. In all the nations implicated in the suffering of the minorities listed above they have been beating up on canaries for some time with hardly any international media or political concern.
So often the ongoing abuse of millions only gets attention when one individual suffers in a headline worthy manner. In this case the UK Foreign Office intervention came after the outcry over the treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who faced death threats after being acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Ms Bibi spent eight years on death row until her conviction was reversed by Pakistan's Supreme Court earlier this year. Large crowds took to the streets to protest against the court's decision, as her husband pleaded for asylum from the UK, US or Canada, saying the family were in danger.
The BBC article mentioned that UK Prime Minister Theresa May defended herself in Parliament after being asked whether she had intervened to stop the UK government offering asylum. Mrs May told Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith he "shouldn't necessarily believe everything he reads in the papers", adding "the absolute prime concern" was the "safety and security" of Asia Bibi and her family.
We are to read between the lines that the UK and other governments in the Free World were having private conversations in order to minimize the potential for Islamic or other repressive government reprisals. It’s the script from yet another monster movie coming to a theatre near you – try and rescue the maiden but whatever you do, don’t wake the monster.
Christians are also being targeted in other parts of the world. The BBC also reported that in China there has been a recent surge of police action against churches, raising concern that the government is getting tougher on unsanctioned Christian activity. The Chinese government insists that Christians in China register and submit to the restrictions of the State.
The list of repressive governments is long - it has to be in order to make the daily lives of 215 million people unbearable by Australian standards. They burn or destroy church buildings and resources, arrest and imprison Christian leaders, deny Christians equal opportunity in the workplace and intimidate them into silence and subservience. But the Australian public must be very attentive if it wants to catch a glimpse of any reference in our media or Hansard.
If this seems ‘victimesque’, why then is the ALP so concerned to make sure that the Australian refugee policy shows no favour to the most persecuted minorities (Christians) in the Middle East? And why is there such a beat up about the as yet unproven injustice of Christian schools against students who identify as gay?
I see another canary getting wobbly on its perch.
Of course in today’s marketplace of social and political ideas, religious freedom has been discounted. The big ticket items are gender and sexual preference. But that’s obvious to everyone except the far right wing of the Christian movement – who it is hoped will stop poking the bear and accept that they are second class citizens now.
If only we hadn’t burnt all the (older) history books that have so many examples of how tyranny begins with what seems like justice. Surely our national educators were not deliberately wiping the national memory clean in order to scrawl misspelt revisions on the farmyard wall? With a voice like honey we are told that there is no need for either the historical or empirical facts. Australia is evolving into a more tolerant, equal, inclusive and diverse society - soon to be free of reactionary attitudes like religious freedom (for Christians…)
Political correctness has seeped into every aspect of life. Everything is valued in terms of its politically correct currency – even the suffering of human beings. Apparently the suffering of some people is much more importance than the suffering of others. Despite the massive and endemic abuse of Christians globally, attempts to deny them freedom of religion in our country raises very little protest. In our own national conversation about religious freedom Christianity is being characterised as a flock of vultures and not a canary in a coal mine.
The canary analogy is very pertinent however, because the bird sings not just for itself… Selah.