The issue is an old one in conservative and Christian circles. But on November 9, the New York Times put it on page one. The paper highlighted growing concern over the persecution of Christians worldwide. The story followed Congressional passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, designed to get the Clinton Administration to focus public attention on this issue. Activists such as Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council welcomed the Times’ story, but it was long overdue. The paper itself noted that one of its own columnists, A.M. Rosenthal, had been among those raising the loudest protests about the persecution of Christians.
The problem is that the story itself and the headline were edited in such a way as to suggest that the claims about Christian persecution were questionable. For example, the headline was “A Move to Fight the ‘Persecution’ Facing Christians,” with the word “persecution” in quotes. Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation, noted other curious formulations in the article. For example, reporter Laurie Goodstein said one group of Christians is praying for “what it calls Christian martyrs” around the world. The phrase “what it calls” suggests that those who die for the Christian faith may not really be martyrs. Goodstein also reported that Christians are concerned about “what they call the Persecuted church,” as if there is some doubt as to whether the church is really being persecuted.
Goodstein also noted that a Nigerian Christian had spoken to a group outside Denver, Colorado, about how he had been assaulted by Muslims who accused him of insulting the prophet Mohammed. “They tried to kill me,” he told the American audience. Goodstein reported that many reacted by signing cards pledging to bring more public attention to the issue. Goodstein then added this comment: “It is events like this in Colorado that have led some critics to accuse the Christian persecution movement of fanning the flames of confrontation between Christianity and Islam.” But how is it fanning the flames of confrontation to expose anti-Christian activities in foreign lands?
About two weeks before the New York Times discovered the issue, the Portland Oregonian newspaper began a five-day series on the persecution of Christians around the globe. The first article began with a series of incidents in various countries, such as a case in Egypt in which a man left Islam to become a Christian. He was arrested and tortured in an effort to make him reveal other converts.
Incredibly, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has opened up a campaign against the paper, accusing it of an “anti-Islamic and anti-Arab bias.” The group called the series “one-sided, “distorted,” “bigoted,” and “unethical.” The group called for letters and emails to be sent to the paper to protest the series and to prevent it from being syndicated. In other words, it didn’t want this information about Christian persecution to be widely disseminated.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is the same group protesting the new film titled “The Siege,” about a fictional Arab terrorist attack on the United States. In our next broadcast, we’ll tell you how its criticism of this film misses the mark as well.