By Brent Hamoud
The global elevation of human rights and individual liberties may be a historical trend but religious persecution remains an immense challenge in our times. Millions are suffering threats to their lives and wellbeing simply because they desire to embrace a particular religious identity and exercise faith convictions. This issue resonates with many Christians in the MENA region where a painful history of affliction against Christianity haunts, and far too many Christ followers today endure violation of their rights and personal security. Religious persecution is not uniform; it can be executed aggressively or it can be administered passively, but the result is always a demoralization of the human condition. The plight of believers has not been lost on the global Church community, and a host of organizations are committed to defending the rights of Christians and supporting victims of maltreatment. Even so, often missing from a Christian discourse on religious persecution is recognition of an injustice undermining millions of lives today: the persecution of Muslims.
From certain vantage points it may be difficult for Christians to imagine how Islam can be the victim of religious persecution. Islam is widely believed to be a force inclined to channel religious persecution not endure it, but the fact is many in our world are suffering horrific injustices precisely because they are Muslim. Their misery is largely invisible to many Christians, even those deeply concerned about the problem of religious persecution. The following are three compelling cases of ongoing persecution against Muslims:
To be clear, none of these situations can be completely distilled to a religious essence. Each is a complicated case involving elements of nationalism, politics, and concerns over national security- but I beg to question if any case of religious persecution is ever entirely about religion. Even so, it cannot be denied that the aforementioned are examples of tremendous human rights tragedies where religion rests at the very heart of the matter. Millions of innocent Muslims are suffering[ii] simply because they exist in contexts where Islam is widely loathed and targeted. These problems warrant the attention of the entire global community, but I believe the Christian community should be especially mindful of the plight of persecuted Muslim. Within this discourse I propose the following points for consideration:
A major pitfall when discussing any issue is to focus on the nature of the problem more than the nature of the people affected. Religious persecution is foremost a matter of individual human lives and we must never let our view of religions corrupt our view of people. Christian concern needs to extend to all. As millions of Muslims suffer the misery of persecution let us actively care in a way that honors all individuals as image-bearers of God worthy of every measure of human dignity. This is the way of Christ.
[ii] The role of statelessness as a weapon of persecution and dehumanization is a very disturbing trend.
[iii] Indeed Christianity has not been silent about the persecution of Muslims as organizations, such as the World Evangelical Alliance, voice an outcry against these blatant injustices.
[iv] Numerous contexts where Muslims are persecuted, such as China and India, are places where Christians’ rights are likewise undermined.