Sunday, March 11, 2007

"Lent, a time of reflection and prayer"

I have a friend who used to be in touch with conservative Christian groups bemoaning the fate of Christians around the world. These groups were trying to work up the theme that Christians were being persecuted, an attempt to both hearken back to pre-Constantinian days (which is partly theological; many conservative Protestant groups try to identify themselves with a pre-Roman church, and imagining themselves as persecuted is one way to do it. Of course, some Protestant denominations have roots in lower-class American society, so the sense of persecution is very real. Just consider where Dr. Martin Luther King's fervor came from.) and to claim special "victim status" for rich white guys like Dobson and Ted Haggard.

Funny nobody like Dobson or Falwell is making any mention of this:

Christians around the world are currently observing Lent, a time of reflection and prayer before Easter and a period that symbolically commemorates 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. Lent this year comes at a moment of crisis for some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, especially for Christians in Iraq.

Internal conflicts there have led to the death of tens of thousands since 2003, contributing to the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948. Nearly 4 million Iraqis are now refugees or internally displaced, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with Christians disproportionately among those forced to flee their homes.

The American mismanagement of Iraq has been particularly unkind to Christians. Militant gangs and terrorist groups target Christians for assault, murder, rape and kidnapping. One vivid example of the brutal violence is last October's murder of a prominent Syrian Orthodox priest whose beheaded body was found in the northern city of Mosul.

This campaign of intimidation and violence includes extremist fire bombings of dozens of churches, attacks on the heart of local Christian communities. In today's Iraq, Christians and other small religious minority groups lack the strength in numbers, the armed militias and the foreign support that the different communities in Iraq's Muslim majority possess.

While conservatives in America have warned of a cultural war against Christians by liberals and secularists in the United States, an actual war of attrition on Christians is unfolding in Iraq. Indeed, the plight of Iraq's Christians points to a cruel irony - an American president whose tight grip on conservative Christian voters at home helped propel him to the White House has stood by and watched the destruction of some of the world's oldest Christian communities.
Maybe our Lenten prayers should include confessions and intercessions for what our government is doing in our name to our fellow Christians. Maybe we should consider, once again, that there is a global nature to Christianity, not just a European or American one. It isn't all about what the Pope says, or what the Archbishop of Canterbury pronounces.

Link via Pastor Dan, who looks out for these things better than I do.

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