Let’s be honest about persecution of Christians

Published 5:57 pm Friday, May 3, 2019

By Christine Flowers

After hundreds of Roman Catholics were killed in an Islamist terror attack last Sunday, Hillary Clinton tweeted out the following:

“On this holy weekend for many faiths, we must stand united against hatred and violence. I’m praying for everyone affected by today’s horrific attacks on Easter worshipers and travelers in Sri Lanka.”

The phrase “Easter worshipper” seemed strange, especially since former President Barack Obama had used the exact same phrase when tweeting out his own condolences: “The attacks on tourists and Easter worshipers in Sri Lanka are an attack on humanity. On a day devoted to love, redemption and renewal, we pray for the victims and stand with the people of Sri Lanka.”

I chalked it up to that foot-in-mouth disease that afflicts some progressives when they try to talk about religion.

I was willing to move on from Clinton’s statement until I recalled her tweet after the assault on two mosques in New Zealand:

“My heart breaks for New Zealand & the global Muslim community. We must continue to fight the perpetuation and normalization of Islamophobia and racism in all its forms. White supremacist terrorists must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped.”

That’s when I got angry.

The death toll in Sri Lanka dwarfs that in New Zealand, and I say that not to diminish the horror of the assault on innocent Muslims but to point out that Clinton didn’t take the Easter Sunday massacre as an opportunity to decry “the normalization of anti-Christian hatred and racism in all its forms.” She didn’t condemn “Islamic terrorists.” She didn’t demand that their “murderous hatred must be stopped.”

She just said that on a holy weekend for “many faiths,” we need to stand against “hatred and violence.”

Some people reading this won’t see anything wrong with her comments. Some people will take issue with the fact that I am using the death of innocent people as an occasion to play politics.

But I have a problem with the way Clinton, and Obama, and others were so quick to commiserate with Muslim victims in New Zealand, and before that Jewish victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and before that the African-American victims of Mother Emanuel in Charleston, but had a difficult time finding the explicit words to talk about how Christians were murdered in Sri Lanka.

I’m sensitive to the issue because I’ve spent the last few months in immigration court defending Christians who have been persecuted in other parts of the world. Just this week, a young Honduran evangelical who received death threats every day for six months and who was assaulted outside of the church where she preached, was granted asylum by a compassionate immigration judge. It might seem counterintuitive that Christians are in danger in Christian majority countries, but there are no geographical limitations when it comes to hate.

However, there is an unwillingness in the west to acknowledge that Christians are an endangered species.

As John L. Allen observed in Crux, an online newspaper that focuses on news related to the Catholic Church, “conversation about anti-Christian persecution has gone through several phases of denial … fueled by suspicion in some cultural and media circles that ‘anti-Christian persecution’ had been ginned up by conservative western Christians looking to win sympathy for socially unpopular positions on matters such as homosexuality and women.”

To me, this statement resonated as I considered Clinton’s tone-deaf tweet. Consciously or not, she sees Muslims, Jews and other minorities as victims, and has a blind spot when it comes to Christians. She’s not alone.

Language matters. So the next time a church goes up in flames, or people are massacred in church pews, let’s stop using euphemisms like Obama’s “attack on humanity.”

Let’s be honest: It was an attack on Christians.

CHRISTINE FLOWERS is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.