My previous history blog reminded me of a bit of personal history. Shortly before starting this blog I was watching the "That the World May Know" series by historian Ray Van der Laan. I was watching this one section relating to the persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire and there was this very emotionally stirring part where the group is sitting in a cave fugitive Christians once hid in. One girl in the group survived some pretty brutal religious violence in North Africa and she was telling her story. It was a very poignant moment - not a dry eye in the house. As touched as I was at the time, there was an annoying voice in the back of my mind with an uncomfortable question. At that point in time, there were fresh reports in the news about the religious violence against Buddhists in Thailand. The question that would not leave me alone was this - would the people now weeping about the persecution of Christians shed any tears at all about the persecution of Buddhists?
Now, I don't know the answer. I honestly like to think that these good people would care about persecution not their own. There are large groups of Christians though who I have serious doubts about though. Often times when I hear Christians talk, I get the impression that they believe religious persecution is only a bad thing when it happens to Christians. Any sane person should be able to see the problem with that but I think the most ironic part is the fact that these Christians are missing is that all religious persecution concerns Christians. Whenever someone is persecuted, jailed, beaten or discriminated against simply due to their beliefs then it concerns you directly. If it can happen to anyone else then it can happen to you. Persecution is always wrong, no matter who it happens to. How is this not obvious?
You would think that due to everything Christians have had to suffer in their history they would have truckloads of empathy for everyone else suffering the same tragedy. Instead you find them acting like it is not a tragedy at all! Whenever Christians act as if they are the only people on the planet who ever suffered persecution, or worse when we try to pretend we are being persecuted when that is clearly not the case (recent case study here) it just makes me sick. But it gets far, far worse when we act as if people of other faiths deserve to be treated badly. There seems to be this pervasive notion that Christianity should be fully protected by the might of the law from anything that makes it even mildly unhappy while all other beliefs should only be grudgingly tolerated by the law - provided they never do or say anything that a Christian disagrees with. That is stupid and evil and the fact that otherwise intelligent people can act that way frightens me.
Did Jesus not teach that we are to treat others the way we would wish to be treated? Did the founder of the Christian faith not say "in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you"? Does it not stand to reason then that if you are a Christian you should oppose all persecution on the basis of belief? If you don't oppose it when it happens to others, what right have you to cry foul when it happens to you? If you act like it doesn't matter when others are persecuted, others may act like it does not matter when you are persecuted. If you think persecution of other faiths are deserved then perhaps you deserve it too.
Persecuting someone simply due to their beliefs is always wrong, no matter if the person being persecuted is Atheist, Baptist, Catholic, Hindu or Muslim. It doesn't matter if you disagree with their beliefs. It doesn't matter if they persecuted you in the past. It doesn't matter if they never spoke up for you. All that matters is that is always wrong to persecute someone for their faith. Always. If it is true for you then it is true for everyone.
Persecution of others always concerns you. Martyrs matter. If it can happen to anyone then it could happen to you. If someone else is a victim then so are you.