Over the course of the last week or so there has been a spate of killings of Christians in Baghdad. This has seen the Archbishop of Canterbury issue a number of press releases and statements drawing attention to the vulnerability of Christians in the region.
It has also led to a heated debate on Robin Lustig’s blog on whether the Western reaction to the killings is somewhat hypocritical. Robin Lustig presents The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 and Newshour on the BBC World Service.
The debate has been prompted by the following quote on Lustig’s blog from a young female doctor from Baghdad. She writes:
All Iraqis are in grave danger, and yet the outside world seems to care only if the victims of terrorism are non-Muslims … The lesson is learnt, Europe, you who claim that you’re the fortress of democracy and universal human rights for every human being. Now, your utter hypocrisy is exposed to everyone.
Lustig concludes his post on the subject by posing the simple question – ‘Do you agree?’ Most of the responses to date have been affirmative.
My own view is that it is all too easily to become numb and desensitized to the death of innocents in war torn areas like Iraq and Afghanistan. When death becomes a daily occurrence, words sometimes fail us and we find it difficult to respond meaningfully.
But, in this instance, I think the media attention and public outrage would have been the same if it had been Muslims held hostage while attending Friday prayer or Jews killed when visiting the local synagogue. What made the story newsworthy was not so much the religious identity of those killed, but rather that they were killed when coming together for the purpose of religious worship and fellowship.
Ironically, the recent atrocities shed a spotlight on Iraq that helps to resensitize us, even if only momentarily, to the daily suffering that all Iraqis face. We might pause to reflect on whether the recent attack on Christian communities is a new development or just the latest in a series of attacks, but either way my over riding conclusion is that if any individual regardless of his or her religious identity cannot come together as part of a wider worshipping community without fear of death then the current outlook for Iraq and its people is bleak indeed. How we act on this finding is obviously a second order question that needs further debate.
None of this is to reject the views of the young Iraqi doctor. I suspect that her position is typical of many Muslims in Iraq and dare I say it, here in Europe as well. The sense of isolation and anger that she conveys needs to be heard and responded to.
If nothing else her comments remind us that after invading Iraq in 2003 and departing in 2009 we still have a moral responsibility for ensuring that a just peace in Iraq ultimately prevails. Peace in Iraq must also extend to providing for the religious freedom of its people.
What do you think? Do you think we are being hypocritical?
Answers on a post card please to Robin Lustig.