We need to tackle the persecution that many Christians face from members of their own family.
We need to tackle the persecution that many Christians face from members of their own family
The foreign secretary, William Hague, and the special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, will today open a four day summit aimed at tackling the practice of using sexual violence as a weapon of war.
The stories of rape heard on our radios and televisions all too often have not just been harrowing, and I very much hope that the conference will allow robust action to be taken against those who deem such tactics of war as in any way legitimate.
Alongside this, however, there is a pressing need to tackle another equally horrific but much less reported on problem, namely the persecution that many Christians face not from state regimes and organised Groups (although this is very much an issue where greater action is needed), but from members of their own family.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag is awaiting an appeal in the Sudan having been sentenced to death under Islamic sharia law, which outlaws conversation from Islam to another faith. In this case, her Islamic faith is defined by her father being a Muslim, despite her having been raised an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, and having married a Christian man originally from South Sudan.
At the time leaders from across the West quite rightly united to condemn this outrage. But one wonders where the outrage is when the views of one Meriam’s alleged brothers are taken into account.
Speaking recently to CNN, Al-Samani al-Hadi, who claims to be one of her three brothers, chillingly said of her fate just a couple of days ago:
“If she repents and returns to our Islamic faith and to the embrace of our family then we are her family and she is ours. We are prepared to hold her dearer than the apples of our eyes. But if she refuses she should be executed.”
The sickness I feel at the thought of a brother calling for the execution of her sister simply because she identifies herself as a Christian is palpable, but the sad truth is that it is just the tip of an iceberg.
Earlier this year for example it was reported that a man in the Nigerian state of Oyo had been arrested for hacking his daughter to death with a machete for converting from Islam to Christianity.
And in Saudi Arabia, as we have previously reported on Left Foot Forward, having told her family that she had converted from Islam to Christianity, a young woman had her tongue cut out before being burnt her to death.
Whilst I accept that such stories are just one off examples, a simple Google search reveals many more horrific accounts of Christians facing death or the fear of death at the hands of their families simply for converting to Christianity.
I admit that I am not sure what practical policy steps could be taken to address such evil, but it surely must be right that we consider what can be done.
Just as rape of whatever kind, whether in war or not, is a heinous and barbaric act that cannot be tolerated, so too is the spectre that looms too large of children living in fear of their families simply for the faith they hold.
It is sickening to think that for many their families are not bedrocks of love, stability and support, but of death and destruction.
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