In Christine Flowers’ June 21 column, she states that “the persecution of Christians continues unabated.” She is absolutely right! Christians have persecuted Muslims, Jews and other non-Christians relentlessly for centuries. There is no continent on Earth, except perhaps Antarctica, that has been untouched by often deadly religious influence.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree that the massacre of Catholics in Nigeria is a terrible thing. But then all genocides are horrible and history is full of these events. She speaks of the martyrdom of Christians at the Colosseum as something people dismiss as “too old news to care about”. At the same time, Catholics are often very offended when they are reminded of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, saying that this is old news and should not be held against us today. According to historical references, around 7,000 Christians were massacred during the time of Roman rule. On the other hand, during the centuries of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, millions of people were put to death for refusing to give up their religious beliefs and become Catholics.
When the Europeans, under the doctrines of Manifest Destiny and the Divine Right of Kings, set out to conquer the “new” world, they slaughtered an estimated 55 million people in the Americas. How was this different from Pope Urban II’s call for the First Crusade in 1095, declaring “Deus Vult” (God wills it)? He used exaggerated stories of anti-Christian acts to stir the masses and also promised absolution from sins (past and future) for those who would fight back. It sounds like the propaganda and outright lies that are spreading on social media today, pissing people off at anyone who doesn’t see the world the way they see it.
I was raised Catholic. When I was a child, I too was captivated by “Quo Vadis”. Later, I learned how Catholics and other religious fanatics had put women in a no-win situation with their moralistic ideas. My friend, a devout Catholic, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She had four children and her doctor had told her that if she got pregnant again, she would probably die. The teachings of the church back then were: you can’t refuse your husband, you can’t use contraception, and you certainly can’t have an abortion. So, lose faith or lose life? This has often been the position of Catholic and Protestant missionaries as they strive to convert people all over the world.
There are many people, both secular and religious, who follow the tenets of their beliefs with godly actions. They love their neighbors, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and kill neither fetuses nor humans. They teach by example, feel no need to convert others, or hate those who are different from them. If there is a Great Spirit that created us all, these people come much closer to representing that Being. Unfortunately, there are far too many others who use religion to punish and control people while obtaining wealth and power for themselves.
Yes, the murder of missionaries is terrible, as is the Holocaust, the slaughter of indigenous peoples, the continued abuse of women over the centuries, and the horrific murders of people in Ukraine and all the wars of the 21st century.
If Ms Flowers believes Catholics have been unfairly targeted for persecution, perhaps she should take a closer look at why people may not be happy with what religion has given them. Is it inclusivity, respect and love, or cultural destruction and godly judgment?
Susan Chichetto lives in Bath.