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One-Way Sympathy

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Christians in the Muslim World

Since the start of the Danish cartoon controversy, Vatican officials have expressed sympathy with Islamic outrage over the depictions of Muhammad. This sympathy comes from knowing what it's like to have your beliefs treated with disrespect and even contempt. Yet in much of the Islamic world, that sympathy isn't a two-way street.

That's why the Vatican recently issued a statement "urging Islamic countries to reciprocate by showing more tolerance toward their Christian minorities." As Angelo Soldano, the Vatican 's Secretary of State put it: "If we tell our people they have no right to offend, we have to tell the others they have no right to destroy us . . . "

Destroy is not too strong a word. The anger originally directed at Denmark is increasingly being directed at Christians. In Turkey , a priest was murdered in an attack that the Turkish media has connected to the cartoon controversy. In Pakistan , protesting mobs have ransacked churches and beaten Christians. In Beirut, which, unlike Pakistan , has a large Christian population, a Christian neighborhood was attacked by a Muslim mob.

By far the worst attacks have occurred in Nigeria . In the state of Borno, attacks left as many as fifty-one Christians dead, including a priest. The Christian property destroyed included at least six churches, both Catholic and Protestant, the Bishop's home, and a Christian bookstore.

The rioters, who went on a rampage after hearing a Muslim cleric denounce the cartoons, sent a clear message with their choice of targets: These are our true enemies, the Christians. This led to a deplorable, yet predictable, response: Nigerian Christians retaliated against Muslims, killing one and burning a mosque. This is tragic.

And where Christians aren't under physical attack, they still face restrictions that far exceed the ones being decried by Muslim protesters. These restrictions, which have been chronicled on "BreakPoint," include bans on public and, in Saudi Arabia , even private worship.

This lack of reciprocity, along with the violence in places like Nigeria and Pakistan , has the usually-conciliatory Vatican saying, "Enough!" Pope Benedict told the Moroccan ambassador that peace requires a reciprocal "respect for the religious convictions and practices of others . . . "

Other Vatican officials were even sharper. The Secretary of its supreme court told an Italian newspaper, "Enough now with this turning the other cheek! It's our duty to protect ourselves."

His frustration arises from the well-founded doubts that the West will do anything about Muslim persecution of Christians. He noted that "half a century" of relations with "Arab countries" had not produced "the slightest concession on human rights."

Sadly, he's right. While countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are cited for their violations of religious freedom, there are not any sanctions. So, the message is that we are not really serious about freedom and democracy.

Without religious freedom, efforts to spread democracy are futile, because societies that don't respect the rights of religious minorities cannot be expected to respect any other human rights. What this tragic turn of events really proves is that, contrary to the politically correct wisdom of our day, not all worldviews or religions are alike. And the differences really matterójust ask the Christians living in the Islamic world.

ISLAM INDEX

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