The atmosphere in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square turned from celebratory to somber as Pope Francis devoted his address Monday to the bleak subject that has occupied most of his recent remarks.
“Our brothers and our sisters … are persecuted, exiled, slain, beheaded, solely for being Christian,” he said, his expression tense, his cadence slow but deliberate.
Speaking from a window of the Apostolic Palace, the pope said that there have been more “martyrs” for Christianity in recent years than in the early centuries of the faith.
“I hope that the international community doesn’t stand mute and inert before such unacceptable crimes, which constitute a worrisome erosion of the most elementary human rights. I truly hope that the international community doesn’t look the other way.”
The persecution of Christians is a theme that ran through most of the pope’s speeches this weekend. At a Good Friday procession, he decried the world’s “complicit silence” while members of his faith are killed. On Sunday, he devoted his Easter address to a grim accounting of global conflicts where Christians and others have been killed. His speech referenced the attack on Garissa University College in eastern Kenya last week, in which al-Shabab militants killed at least 148 people, reportedly singling out non-Muslims. It also referred to “absurd bloodshed” and “barbarous acts of violence” in Libya, where 21 Egyptian Christians were beheaded by the Islamic State in February.
“May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees,” he said of the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
Has the world really “looked the other way” while Christians are killed?
David Curry, president of the nonprofit Open Doors USA, which advocates for persecuted Christians worldwide, believes so.
“We see a continued pattern in many of these regions of violence and persecution against Christians,” he said in a phone interview. “But the West and Western governments, including the U.S., when they conflict-map these issues, they refuse to address the fact that Christians are being targeted.”
As evidence, Curry pointed to President Obama’s Friday statement on the attack at Garissa University. Despite reports that the attackers targeted Christian students and an al-Shabab statement calling the attack an “operation against infidels,” Obama’s remarks make no mention of religion.
“I think some people would say that they’re fueling Islamophobia [by saying Christians were targeted], but that’s not really what we’re talking about,” Curry said. “We’re talking about identifying the ideology of extremists.”
He added: “That’s a major part of this story. At some point we so have to say that [religion] is part of this conflict.”
It’s not the first time this criticism has been leveled at the president. When the 21 Egyptian Christians were killed in Libya, many commenters — mostly from conservative outlets — criticized Obama for not identifying the victims’ faith in his statement on the beheadings.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: The Washington Post