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3/27/2012 9:26:00 AM
Persecution, from any side, must stop
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
PSU students Halima Ali and Hamida Ahmed serve meals at St. Francis Dining Hall in fall 2011.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
PSU students Halima Ali and Hamida Ahmed serve meals at St. Francis Dining Hall in fall 2011.

We Christians in the secularized U.S. and Europe may feel that our worldwide church is waning. Not so. The gospel still touches people's hearts and Christianity is the world's fastest-growing faith, according to a recent survey.

And despite our sense that Islam gets the brunt, Christians are the most persecuted faith group on the planet. Particularly in Africa and Asia — where the church is growing — and in the Middle East, where it's shrinking, Christians face severe threats. Vatican studies show that 75 percent of adherents killed for religious reasons in the world are Christian.

It has been happening for decades in the Middle East and political changes now under way there have made it worse. Militants crashed into a Catholic Church in Baghdad last year and opened fire on worshipers, including children. It's no surprise that between 600,000 and 1 million Christians have left Iraq in the past decade.

It's a story repeated from nation to nation — Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan. It was good to see dictators go, but at least those regimes respected non-Muslim faiths to some extent. Some who have emerged from the Arab Spring have wrongly identified Christianity as part of the old establishment, unaware that Christians suffered just as much under tyranny as anyone else.

The problem is especially bad in Pakistan, where a Catholic government official was assassinated for defending women condemned to die under strict Islamic law.
We understand that Christianity has a spotty record when it comes to religious tolerance. But these days, Christians are more target than attacker.

We're told by Muslim friends that the attacks on Christians are a violation of Islam and a bad reading of the Qur'an.

Let's do what we can to protect Christians around the world and also respect our Muslim brothers and sisters who live their faith authentically. Last year, a team of Muslim Portland State University students came to serve a meal at St. Francis Dining Hall in Portland. For a sweet moment, they helped bridge a religious gap in response to the God that loves us all the same.

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