The Common Good
May-June 1998

The Persecution of Christians

by Paul Marshall | May-June 1998

RON DART’S commentary, "Beyond Clan Politics" (January-February 1998),
discusses more than my own work, but permit me to focus on it alone.

RON DART’S commentary, "Beyond Clan Politics" (January-February 1998), discusses more than my own work, but permit me to focus on it alone.

He chides me for being selective in highlighting the persecution of some Christians and ignoring others. Why no mention of Palestinian Christians, or Israel, or Indonesia, or the thousands of deaths in the 1980s in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua?

There are several reasons for this apparent lack. One is that in some cases Dart is wrong. Their Blood Cries Out does discuss Indonesia (pp. 58-60) and has an adjoining section on East Timor (pp. 60-61) that cites the death toll he alludes to.

A second is the particular focus of mine and Nina Shea’s work. Apart from illustrations for history and comparison, it is on current persecution—defined as during the 1990s. My earliest example is 1989. This is one reason why the events in the 1980s Dart describes would not be covered.

A third reason is that the book is about religious persecution understood as persecution on religious grounds, and defined as persecution which people suffer that they would not suffer if they were of a different religion. The book is not about the whole range of persecution that Christians and others suffer. Otherwise it would certainly need to include not only the examples Dart cites, but situations such as Rwanda and Burundi whose genocides are the largest example of persecution in the 1990s. It would come close to being a world survey of human rights.

My reason for saying this is not merely authorial defensiveness (though no doubt I have it in great quantity) but because I believe it can damage the people that both he and I want to aid. When people’s efforts are directed toward making sure the issue of religious persecution does not get hijacked or sidelined by partisan agendas, Dart’s claims have the danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)