- About terrorism and Islamist violence, Christian leaders offer only words of relativism and moral equivalence. Is it possible that after two recent big massacres of Christians, Catholic leaders have not a single word of courage and honor, but only the same offer of the other cheek?
- Our secular elites condemn proselytizing only when it is practiced by Christians, never when practiced by Muslims.
- In Syria and Iraq, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of places of Christian worship that Islamic fundamentalists have demolished in the past three years. These images, along with the mass decapitations and the rape of the minorities, shock the public, it seems, for one day.
We do not yet know enough about the three terrorists who, saying “This is for Allah!”, killed and wounded so many in London on June 4, but consider these two recent scenes:
Scene one: Manchester, United Kingdom, the “free world”. A British-born Muslim terrorist prays in a former church. All around him, the Christian sites and congregations accepted being turned into Islamic sites. The day after, this terrorist goes on a rampage, murdering 22 concert-goers.
Scene two: Minya, Egypt, the “unfree world”. An Islamist terror group stops a bus full of Christian pilgrims. The terrorists demand that their victims recite the Islamic creed, the shahaada. The Christians refuse to abandon Christianity and become Muslims. The Islamists murder them, one by one.
What do these scenes tell us? Christians resist Islam more in the Middle East than in Europe.
Salman Abedi, the British terrorist who massacred 22 innocent men, women and children at the Manchester Arena, could, every day, enter what was once a beautiful Christian church, consecrated in 1883. It was desecrated in the 1960s, during a great wave of secularization. People still remember the Methodist Church that it was until it was bought by the local Syrian Muslim community to make it a place of Islamic worship, the Didsbury Mosque. One can still see the typical architecture of a church, from the bell tower to the windows. But inside, instead of an altar, Abedi would be headed to the mihrab, the niche in the mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca. The pulpit is still there, but it is no longer used by a Christian pastor. It is used by the imam for the Khutba, the Islamic prayer.
Outside the Didsbury Mosque there is a sign announcing: “Do you want to know more about Islam? Come and socialize”. Such a sign for Christianity would be unthinkable in any European city. Our secular elites condemn proselytizing only when it is practiced by Christians, never when practiced by Muslims. On YouTube, an Islamist organization celebrates “the church converted to a mosque”. Instead of the times for Mass, there is another sign: “Prayer Room for Men”.
A few days after the Manchester attack, Islamists again struck Christians; this time, pilgrims in Egypt. That attack took place after Pope Francis’s trip to Egypt, where he offered the local suffering Christians only a vague condemnation of “every form of hatred in the name of religion”. The head of the Catholic Church evidently did not have the courage to address the question of Islamic fundamentalism, as had his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, at Regensburg.
“Religions do not cause violence and terrorism”, assured the new head of Italian bishops, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, after the massacre in Manchester, adding: “Muslims, Jews and Christians believe in a single creator”. Unfortunately, the terrorists murdered the Christians in Minya because they believe Allah is superior to the Judeo-Christian religion, and gives them the right to take the lives of “disbelievers”.
About terrorism and Islamist violence, Christian leaders offer only words of relativism and moral equivalence. Is it possible that after two big massacres of Christians, Catholic leaders have not a single word of courage and honor, but only the same offer of the other cheek?
The most honest Catholic prelate was the Archbishop of Ferrara, Luigi Negri, who said:
“I hope that some of these gurus — cultural, political and religious — in this situation will hold back words and not invoke the usual speeches to say that ‘it is not a war of religion’. I hope there is a silent moment of respect”.
The gurus, unfortunately, did not hold back; they had words only of weakness and confusion.
These Islamic fighters, such as those who hit Manchester and Minya, are not “radicalized”; they follow an Islamic religious dictate according to a literal reading of the Koran. They attack Europeans because they believe that Islam is superior and stronger than Europe. They feel that Allah and history are on their side. They want to see the flag of Islam flying across Western capitals.
The jihadists might think they can do to Europe what they did to Christians in Niniveh, Iraq. The only way we can win is by defeating them; no compromise is possible. But Europe speaks of “inclusion” and “integration”, never of victory.
While Muslims pray in Europe’s former Christian sites, Christians in the Middle East are murdered for refusing to renounce Christianity and convert to Islam. Father Antonio Gabriel, of the San Mina parish of the Coptic church in Rome, in the course of an interview with Tg2000, revealed the dynamics of the new Islamist aggression against the Egyptian Coptic community. The terrorists, before killing the passengers of two buses traveling to the San Samuele monastery, “asked them to give up Christ and become Muslims”. But, at the demand for apostasy, the Christian Copts responded negatively. The rejection of conversion to Islam triggered the fury of terrorists, who “put the gun on the head and neck” of pilgrims “to kill them directly”.
“If they had accepted”, Father Gabriel pointed out, “they would have spared them”.
The same strong-arming took place in Iraq. When ISIS militants gave four Iraqi children the choice of converting to Islam or death by beheading, the children chose to follow Jesus and were murdered.
But these amazing stories never reach the European mainstream newspapers and televisions, as if the information might disturb our self-righteous certainties. “For decades, the Middle East’s increasingly beleaguered Christian communities have suffered from a fatal invisibility in the Western world”, Ross Douthat wrote in the New York Times. Is that invisibility the result of the West forsaking of its own identity, as happened with the church in Manchester?
In Syria and Iraq, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of places of Christian worship that Islamic fundamentalists have demolished in the past three years. These images shock public opinion, it seems, for one day — along with the mass decapitations and the rape of the minorities. Churches, cemeteries and archaeological sites — every building that carried the symbols of the Christian faith (crosses, statues of the Virgin Mary, icons of the saints, even graves) — were razed to the ground. But is the demise of Christianity in the heart of Europe, by churches converted to mosques, less severe? And why has Pope Francis not condemned the abandonment of Christian holy sites and their takeover by Islam?
Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church Commission on Family Matters, recently announced:
“There is very little time left until the death of the entire Christian Civilization. Several decades, perhaps 30 years, well, maybe in Russia it will last 50, no longer.”
It is impossible for any observer to deny that Christianity is descending into a terminal crisis in Europe. Catholic leaders in the Netherlands estimate that two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be out of use in a decade, and that 700 Dutch Protestant churches will be closed within four years. The Church of England closes around 20 churches a year. The Catholic Church in Germany has closed about 515 churches over the last ten years. You find the same scenario everywhere in Europe.
“I have often heard from Muslims that their goal is to conquer Europe with two weapons: their faith and their birthrate,” said the Maronite patriarch of Antioch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai. “So when they come to Europe and see the empty churches, and find the unbelief of Europeans, they immediately think that they will fill that void”.
This is one of the most tragic ironies of our time: that Christians in Europe, including Pope Francis, have a lot to learn from Christians in Egypt, Syria and Iraq.
Make no mistake; these Islamists are very clear in their goal: eradicating Christians not only from Mosul, as they did in 2014, but also uprooting Christians from Manchester, where churches are already converted to Islam. The pumped-up forces who drove Christians out of their ancestral lands rightly thought: Why not continue in the West the work begun so well in the East?
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.