British journalist Rupert Shortt documents and examines the persecution of Christians around the world – a problem of which many Westerners are unaware.
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This has also historically applied to Myanmar – which Shortt refers to by the older name of Burma – though the situation is changing there. It remains the case in Turkey, where the mere presence of missionaries sends security services into a tizzy. Myanmar, Indonesia, Turkey, and Vietnam are countries where Christians are often also ethnically distinct from the majority population, thereby highlighting differences.Skip to next paragraph
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Relying on the work of Eliza Griswold, Shortt explains that in central Nigeria, an economic conflict was exacerbated by the differing ethno-religious identities of two groups competing for resources, though in the heavily Muslim north, where several states have applied Sharia, the friction is more inherently religious.
Shortt’s exploration of religio-cultural attitudes fueling anti-Christian movements enriches his narrative. The chapter on India (concentrating on the states of Orissa and Karnataka), proves most informative, what with the author’s discussion of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism. The treatment of Myanmar and Sri Lanka will disabuse many a reader of comfortable assumptions, “[s]ince the standard view of Buddhism in the West tends to be even more rose-tinted than that of Hinduism.”
Shortt’s chronicling of Buddhist campaigns against Christians in Myanmar and Sri Lanka is also notable given the more recent outbreak of anti-Muslim violence orchestrated by Buddhist monks in both countries. When it comes to Egypt, however, Shortt does not tackle anti-Coptic stereotypes among ordinary Muslims (as opposed to Islamists), of the sort that depict Copts as treacherous manipulators of the economy, and the Coptic Orthodox Church as a sinister and disloyal institution.
“Christianophobia” conspicuously omits the travails of faith groups whose birth is of relatively recent vintage (with the partial exception of Pentecostals, who comprise a movement rather than a denomination). This is an unfortunate lacuna, because these groups sometimes suffer greatly in countries not otherwise known for religious repression. Jehovah’s Witnesses (along with Pentecostals) endure vicious persecution in Eritrea, and discrimination in Russia, where Mormons also fare badly. Admittedly, Shortt, who tackles neither Russia nor Eritrea, could not have included all oppression of all Christians in his book, but it is imperative that advocates of religious liberty take to task countries that tolerate traditional denominations while hounding newer ones.