The last request does put the plight of Middle Eastern Christians in global context. Western activists and media have focused considerable outrage at Russia’s laws against “homosexual propaganda” in the lead-up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. It would only seem fitting that Westerners would also protest (or at the very least notice) laws that punish people with death for converting to Christianity.
And yet the Western world is largely ignorant of or untroubled by programmatic violence against Christians. Ed West, citing the French philosopher Regis Debray, distils the problem thusly: “The victims are ‘too Christian’ to excite the Left, and ‘too foreign’ to excite the Right.”
Church leaders outside the Middle East are afraid to speak out, partly because they fear precipitating more violence. (Seven churches were fire-bombed in Iraq after Pope Benedict XVI quoted an ancient criticism of Islam in an academic speech in Germany.) Oddly, unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. are the only powers acting in the Middle East that do not take any special interest in the safety of those with whom they have a historical religious affinity.
These are the lands in which Jesus’ apostles and their disciples made some of the first Christian converts. In an interview, West pointed out that these communities “were Christian when our ancestors were worshipping trees and stones.” Now they are in danger of imminent extinction.