I have an ebook published next Thursday, called The Silence of Our Friends, on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the apathy of the West about this tragic and historic event. (A link will appear at the top of this page next week – in the meantime please spread the word.)
I say apathy, but lots of people are concerned, and in the past year and a half such books as Christianophobia, Persecuted and The Global War on Christians have tackled worldwide persecution; there has also been increasing awareness following violence in Syria and Egypt over the summer, and last month Baroness Warsi became the first minister to raise the subject.
Not that the British Government will actually do anything, as was made clear last week when Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds told MPs that Britain will not defend persecuted Christians. Responding to backbenchers who said that Christians were being singled out for attack, the minister said that all groups were suffering under intolerant regimes, a logic Alan Johnson of the Telegraph calls ‘universalise-to-minimise’. The less you specifically focus on an issue, the easier it is to ignore.
Simmonds stated that ‘our response to the persecution of Christians should not be sectarian. We should not be standing up for … Christians in particular, we should be supporting the right to freedom of religion.’
He also argued that ‘there is a risk of isolating them from the wider populations, identifying them as something of a fifth column and even exacerbating the persecution’, which has been the line used by Britain and America for many years.
Taking aside the issue of ‘freedom of religion’, which is interpreted very differently by the Foreign Office’s friends in the Organisation of the Islamic Conferences to how it is by westerners, this argument doesn’t really stand up.