What about the Christians?
Western military intervention in the Middle East, however well-intentioned its perpetrators may have been – or wished to be seen as – has often caused more problems than it has solved. The Gulf Wars had a disastrously destabilising effect on Iraq and the surrounding regions, and they created the conditions for radical Islamic extremism to flourish. The consequent rise of fundamentalism has led to terror attacks on western territories but the impact has been far greater on many living in the Middle East. According to a 2019 investigation commissioned by Jeremy Hunt as Foreign Secretary, the Christian population has plummeted from 20% to a mere 5%. While it is true that many victims of Islamic extremism are themselves Muslim, the report concluded that 80% of victims of religious persecution in the Middle East were Christian.
It would be unfair to blame all persecution of Christians on failed Western military intervention. Indeed, the horrors of physical oppression in parts of Nigeria and of political oppression in Saudi Arabia show the force of that. However, much Western interference in the Middle East has been based on a false assumption, viz that people living there by and large share Western values and would willingly implement democracy if only they had the chance. As Tom Holland’s recent book, Dominion, argues, Western culture is not the inevitable end of history; nor is it merely the result of combining impersonal social forces and the passing of time as some structuralists would have it. Rather, it is built on Christian and even post-Christian values, coming to fruition only after centuries of development. But, at the same time, it is those there who share our deepest values that find themselves abandoned. Why is the UK government seemingly indifferent to the plight of Christians abroad?
It might, indeed, be plausibly argued that the attitude of the UK government has gone beyond mere indifference. For example, in 2018 the government gave £463 million and £235 million to the governments of Pakistan and Nigeria respectively. Both have been shockingly poor at combating persecution – often violent – of their Christian populations. The treatment of Asia Bibi in Pakistan and the activities of Boko Haram or of the Islamic Fulani illustrate the problems faced by Christians in these countries. Fresh atrocities come to light every year: 1,300 Nigerian Christians slain in the last year alone. These outrages are treated with apathy by many of our media, and there is little or no effort by Western governments to address these human rights issues. Our government continues, in the face of all, to send aid to the very people who ignore, and sometimes even perpetrate, these acts.
Such apathy is most likely the consequence of a very conscious rejection of Christian roots. The mainstream media and Hollywood celebrities tout the virtues of tolerance and equality while all the while rejecting the wellspring of such values. A cliché-ed expression involving a saw and a branch comes to mind. The sexualisation of women and minors in the 1960s and onwards has rightly been exposed and condemned as a violation of the inherent dignity of human beings. We should extend this same compassion – and outrage – to those suffering the consequences of publicly held religious beliefs.