In inter-faith circles it is not considered “appropriate” for leading churchmen to spell out the danger posed to Christians in the Middle East by the ideology of Islam. But Pope Benedict XVI would rather tell the truth than obscure it with euphemisms, and in a document released at the end of his trip to Cyprus he did just that. The Holy Father said he hoped October’s Vatican Synod on the Middle East would focus world attention on “the plight of Christians... who suffer for their beliefs”, adding that political Islam (or Islamism) relegates Christians to the status of “non-citizens”.
We can argue about whether the suppression of Christianity is intrinsic to Islam; what is undeniable is that it is happening in countries such as Egypt, once regarded as secular. The Pope has to choose his words carefully, of course: the document also refers to the injustice done to Palestinians – the vast majority of whom, of course, are Muslims. The faithful have suffered immeasurably in that land over the past 60 years, which is why there are now more Palestinian Christians living in Sydney than in Jerusalem. The radicalisation of Palestinian politics, and the growth of Iranian-funded Islamism, makes their future look even bleaker.
World attention must now focus on the destruction of ancient Christian communities, even at the risk of disrupting “dialogue” or provoking demonstrations. We are glad Benedict XVI has spoken out – and so, no doubt, are the brave Christians of the Middle East.