John Allen offers valuable food for reflection in his NCR piece entitled “Five myths about anti-Christian persecution

French intellectual Régis Debray, a veteran leftist who fought alongside Che Guevara in Bolivia, has observed that anti-Christian persecution unfolds squarely in the political blind spot of the West — the victims are usually “too Christian” to excite the left, “too foreign” to interest the right.

As a contribution towards erasing that blind spot, let’s debunk five common myths about anti-Christian persecution.

Myth No. 1: Christians are vulnerable only where they’re a minority

First of all, even if this were true, it would hardly diminish the seriousness of the issue. …

One of the most harrowing new martyrologies of 2011 came out of Mexico, where 92 percent of the population is Catholic. Mary Elizabeth Macías Castro, a leader in the Scalabrinian Lay Movement and a blogger, was beheaded for exposing the activities of a drug cartel; according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, she was the first journalist in the world killed for use of social media.

Anywhere Christians openly profess their faith, take stands against injustice or put themselves in harm’s way on account of the Gospel, they are at risk — whatever the religious demographics of the place happen to be.

Myth No. 2: It’s all about Islam

Moreover, radical Islam is hardly the only source of anti-Christian animus. Christians suffer from a slew of other forces, including:

  • Ultra-nationalism (as in Turkey, where extreme nationalists tend to be a greater threat than Islamists)
  • Totalitarian states, especially of the Communist variety (China, North Korea)
  • Hindu radicalism (Anti-Christian aggression has become routine in some regions of India. This week, Hindu radicals armed with sticks and iron bars attacked 20 Pentecostal Christians in a private home near Bangalore, an assault that left the pastor missing a finger on his left hand. When Christians reported similar assaults two weeks ago, a member of the state’s official Commission for Minorities, which is under the control of a nationalist Hindu party, shrugged it off: “If you really knew the teachings of Jesus, Christians should not be complaining,” he reportedly said.)
  • Buddhist radicalism (as in Sri Lanka, where, contrary to stereotypes of Buddhist tolerance, mobs led by Buddhist monks attacked Christian churches and other targets across the country in 2009)
  • Corporate interests (as in Brazil’s Amazon region, where Christian activists have been killed for protesting injustices by agri-business conglomerates)
  • Organized crime, narco-traffickers, and petty thugs (For instance, the 1993 murder of Mexican Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, shot 14 times at the Guadalajara airport by gunmen linked to a drug cartel, or the assassination in the same year of Italian Fr. Giuseppe Puglisi, a bitter critic of the Sicilian mafia.)
  • State-imposed security policies (as in Israel, where checkpoints, visa requirements and other restrictions divide Christian families between East Jerusalem and the West Bank and make it virtually impossible for Christians in one location to worship in the other)
  • Even, believe it or not, Christian radicalism

The point is that extremism and intolerance of whatever stripe, not Islam, is the threat.

Myth No. 3: No one saw it coming

When Christians are targeted, politicians and police often play the role of Capt. Louis Renault in Casablanca, professing shock at what happened but suggesting the violence was an unforeseeable calamity rather than a failure of vigilance. Yet in a disturbing number of instances, the warning signs were all too clear.

Turkey offers an example. ….

Myth No. 4: It’s only persecution if the motives are religious

Scanning the Fides list of pastoral workers killed in 2011 [3], it’s tempting to conclude that much of this violence isn’t really anti-Christian. In many instances, it seems more like a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In identifying Christians who need help, the only thing that should matter is that they’re in the firing line — not what’s in the head of whoever’s pulling the trigger.

Myth No. 5: Anti-Christian persecution is a right-wing issue

Of the five myths considered here, this is undoubtedly the most pernicious. If we can agree on anything in this polarized world, it ought to be that persecution of people on the basis of their beliefs — whatever those beliefs may be — is intolerable.


Defending persecuted Christians, in other words, is hardly an effort that should concern the political and theological right alone. Styling anti-Christian persecution as a political football is not only an obscenity, but it’s factually inaccurate.

[John L. Allen Jr. is NCR‘s senior correspondent. His email address is]