Not only Asia Bibi. When the world-famous Christian peasant was acquitted after nine years in prison and a grotesque death sentence for blasphemy, Pakistan was set on fire for twenty days by thousands of furious Islamic fundamentalists. “But the West preferred not to see, in order not to admit that a certain deviant political-religious theme concerned a large part of the Pakistani population,” says Alessandro Monteduro, director of the Catholic Acs Italia foundation. According to reports from the British Foreign Office, one third of the world’s population “suffers to some extent from religious persecution” and Christians are “the largest group of persecuted”.
In Rome or Milan it is an image that is difficult to focus on: but to this day, one in seven Christians lives in lands of persecution, risking losing their property or life, under the attack of radicalism or the pressure of liberticidal regimes. They were three hundred million in danger in 2018, they rose again in 2019, to 320 million, according to the most recent dossiers of ACS or the non-profit organization Open Doors, following a constantly worsening trend. There are at least fifty red-dot countries, in the Middle East, Africa and part of Asia, with dramatic peaks in Nigeria, where the Christian community must pay to obtain police protection during Sunday masses and the cry of pain has been raised of Archbishop Agustine Akubeze who from Benin City denounced the murder of four thousand Christians, “they kill us in indifference”: if the grip of Boko Haram loosens, that of the Fulani Islamist pastors becomes more ferocious. From Pakistan, the archbishop of Karachi, Joseph Coutts, recalling the All Saints’ Day massacre in Peshawar in 2013 (150 dead and 300 wounded) and the dozen subsequent attacks, explained how his community lives “in a state of perennial tension, because in our minds we know that somewhere at some time there will be another attack. ‘
The World Watch List 2021 annual report, presented to the House a few weeks ago, speaks of 4,761 Christians killed (on average 13 per day) in the last year, with an increase of 60%, of 4,277 arrested without trial and incarcerated, 1,710 kidnapped. Twelve nations in which the persecution is classified as extreme. In the first five places, North Korea (since 2002) and then Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan. However, the issue is very slippery, because religious freedom in itself, an inviolable right of everyone, is increasingly under fire in the world, and speaking of Christianophobia certainly does not mean obscuring the massacres of Uyghurs in China or Rohingya in clashes between Hindu and Islamic communities in India, or the 120,000 French Jews who in ten years emigrated to Israel frightened by the anti-Semitism that led Bernard-Henry Lévy to to outline the contours of an “Islamo-leftist” which is conquering the universities.
However, there is difficulty, if not reluctance, in addressing the subject of persecuted Christians in public discourse: almost a retro-thought. Andrea Riccardi argues that “little is said about it because in our culture the Christian was the persecutor: the 500th anniversary of Latin America was celebrated by saying that Christians have destroyed a world. The great work of John Paul II in the year 2000 is to say that Christians are once again a people of martyrs “, recalls the historian, founder of Sant’Egidio, who dedicated his” The century of martyrdom “to the question:”If in the nineties we had talked about Christian martyrs, everyone would have thought of the catacombs. Wojtyla changed this perception ». But that’s not the only difficulty. «True», Riccardi admits: «There is the abuse that a certain right wing makes of the issue. John Paul II had this clear. There is a political use of Christian martyrs by the right. Two years ago Orbán held a conference in Budapest with Eastern Christians, recalling how Christians are persecuted in the Middle East: he gave them two million euros, but the gist was that Muslims are bad and he is right not to want to. migrants “. In short, Christianity without the mercy of Jesus is the other side of this hell.
“We need balance”, also admits Monteduro, who tells how, for the trip of Pope Francis to Iraq in recent days, the Acs foundation (Aid to the Church in Need) has collected one and a half million euros in scholarships for the ‘Catholic University of Erbil, of which 72% to Catholic students, 10% to Muslim students: “You cannot imagine what certain self-styled Catholics wrote to me on social media for that 10% to Islamic children …”.
The malaplant is rooted. It feeds on blood, horror and sick ideas. There are two ways to eradicate it. In the freer and more fortunate West, with the intellectual honesty to call facts and things by their name. In the lands of persecution, with the courage of example. Sant’Egidio has, among its people, two young martyrs of this century, who died because, as Catholics, they wanted to change (their) world. Floribert Bwana Chui was a customs officer in Goma (right in that part of Congo where Luca Attanasio and Vittorio Iacovacci were killed): they had offered him three thousand dollars to let rotten food into the city; he refused to poison his people, “as a Christian I cannot accept”, resisting torture until death. Same fate as William Quijano, who for Sant’Egidio tore children from the favelas of San Salvador and was therefore murdered by a “mara”, a gang that did not like evangelization work, preferring to turn children into killers. One gesture can change the world, said Nelson Mandela. The church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh was used as a shooting range by ISIS militiamen, the marks of the bullets are still there: on Sunday, Francis will recite the Angelus there.
March 6, 2021 (change March 7, 2021 | 08:22)