Largely absent from nearly all our sources of news and commentary is deep, continuing coverage, if any, of the horrifying massacres of Christians in Egypt and especially Syria and the burning down of their churches.
The world’s most prominent Christian, Pope Francis, has denounced the violence, but our media has mostly ignored him, instead giving him a justly favorable response for his concern for the poor and otherwise vulnerable.
One of the few penetrating protesters of this violence is Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review:
“For the first time in 1,600 years, they didn’t pray this past Sunday at the Virgin Mary and Anba Abraam monastery in a village in southern Egypt.
“Islamists firebombed and looted the monastery, which dates back to the fifth century. For good measure, they destroyed a church inside. They then announced that they would be converting the monastery into a mosque” (“Egypt’s Anti-Christian Pogrom,” Lowry, National Review, Aug. 20).
He adds: “The Christian church was founded in Alexandria around 50 A.D. ...
“None of recent regimes in Egypt -- including the latest set of military rulers -- has shown any interest in protecting them.”
And as for our president: “In his remarks after the bloodshed began in Egypt, President Barack Obama relegated his concern over the anti-Christian attacks to a three-word dependent clause at the end of one sentence.”
As for daily life in Egypt, Morning Star News reported that earlier this month, “a Coptic Christian girl walking home from a Bible class at her church was shot and killed ... in Cairo by an unidentified gunman, human rights activists said.”
The girl’s uncle, a church pastor, said “he didn’t know for sure if the shooting was religiously motivated but quickly added that violence against Christians ‘seems to be normal’ in Egypt now” (“Coptic Christian Girl Shot Dead in Egypt,” Morning Star News, Aug. 9).
Meanwhile in Syria, “the nation’s 2 million-plus Christians are caught in the middle of a Muslim war.
“Jihadist rebels threaten and kidnap them while coercing others to become Muslims. Government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad order them to fight the opposition or face death” (“Christians are in the crosshairs of bloody Muslim wars in Mideast,” Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times, Aug. 1).
But in spite of all this, says John Hayward of Human Events, “the international community never seems terribly exercised about the persecution of Christian minorities.
“The Western world is sometimes complacent about the inevitable triumph of pluralistic democracy, but the Islamists are placing a different bet. They like their chances against Western societies that won’t speak loudly in defense of their ideals.
“The same advanced democracies that had agonized internal discussions about whether freedom of speech should be curtailed, in order to avoid offending Muslims, don’t seem particularly angry about the destruction of Coptic churches, and other Christian property. Egyptian mobs are targeting Christian property for destruction by writing Islamist graffiti on the walls.”
But, thankfully, there are still those who are angry and vocal about this violence toward Christians. One of these media commentators who persistently denounce the absence of sustained American outrage at this merciless pogrom is Michael Savage, host of the Cumulus Radio program “The Savage Nation.”
Meanwhile, in this democratic country, will our Congress’ cold indifference continue? And will the nation’s religious leaders and activists — not just Christians — be confronted by those they lead? Will they say something and try to save what’s left of those Christian minorities in Egypt and Syria?
Speaking of activist Christians, I was privileged to have as a friend the late Cardinal John O’Connor, former Archbishop of New York. Indeed, he would have been heard from memorably and often.
As for the rest of us, are there any street demonstrations coming in front of the United Nations? Or does the very idea of insistent involvement from the UN — its reason for being — provoke anything but sardonic laughter at the prospect that its members will do anything lasting at all? Even if that young martyred Egyptian girl were miraculously restored to speak to them?
Why am I, an atheist since I was 12 years old, so concerned about the helplessness of these Christians? It’s because the one person who has been the major influence on my life was a devout Catholic, the late Frances Sweeney, whom I wrote about in my book, “Boston Boy.” She published a staunchly independent Boston newspaper that focused on exposing political corruption and diverse violations of the Constitution during the 1940s and for a time beyond.
Also, in America’s most anti-Semitic city in those years, she publicly criticized the autocratic Christian hierarchy for its silence on such matters, including the Catholic Church.
At 15, I was one of her unpaid reporters writing about this spreading anti-Semitism. The cardinal of Boston at the time, William O’Connell, ordered her to be silent. Though fearful of excommunication, which he threatened, Sweeney refused.
She also neglected her doctor’s warning to stop working because of her failing heart. Shortly before she died, once she could speak again, she told us of lying in the street unable to talk, as people walked by, chuckling about “another Irish drunk,” without doing anything to help her.
But Frances Sweeney has kept living for me and others because of her utter courage and honesty, and the unbending strength she received from her religious faith.
Next week: The continuing global extent of the massacre of Christians beyond Syria and Egypt. Though I remain an atheist, I have learned how to live soulfully from Frances Sweeney and Cardinal O’Connor. So I must keep on writing about what so much of the world doesn’t seem to care about — the killing of Christians.
Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow.