By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — So as not to be accused of being the Glantz Who Stole Christmas, I held back on one vital and disturbing piece of information during my annual quibbling with those mortified by the apparently egregious use of “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” a few months back.
Remaining sensitive to the importance of the holiday season and traditions — and understanding that the overall insolence of American society creates Frankensteins out of otherwise civil and respectful people — I kept the banter nonsensical.
As fights go, these are not good ones.
With chips on their shoulders as high as the star atop their Christmas trees, the end game of their argument is that “poor Gordon doesn’t get it.”
Actually, I do.
It is nothing to do with a claim that America — with a promise of separation of church and state – is a “Christian” country.
When they angrily point to a general greeting – as opposed to one more directed toward a specific holiday in a the holiday season – as evidence of Christian persecution, I wanted to hoot and howl.
But it’s not a laughing matter.
Not in 2014.
They are semi-correct in their persecution accusation, but largely ignorant as to why.
If you want persecution, I’ll give you persecution.
And I do it with a heavy heart.
Christians are, in fact, being persecuted around the world at such an alarming rate that they have even surpassed Jews at No. 1 on the world’s Hate Parade.
And what is going on in the world at large is far more tragic than someone not greeting you the way you prefer, or your child being taught in a more secular way at a public school (where taxpayers of all faiths send their children with the hopes that they not be ostracized because they are not in the religious majority).
I don’t really blame my many friends and neighbors who go temporarily insane that Jesus — the “reason for the season” — seems secondary to coverage of Black Friday riots at big box stores.
I blame the American media – mainstream and otherwise – for leaving the populace in the dark when there their job is to shed light on the story behind the story.
How many knew that a Vatican representative, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, testified on Feb. 11 before a House subcommittee about the “flagrant and widespread persecution” of Christians in the Middle East, where the thaw of spring has hardened hearts toward the Christians?
He did, and the Pope’s messenger pulled no punches.
“No Christian is exempt, whether or not he or she is Arab,” Chullikatt said. “Arab Christians, a small but significant community, find themselves the target of constant harassment for no reason other than their religious faith,”
In this explosive part of the world – the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam — a greeting of “Happy Holidays” would have gone a long way this past December.
Chullikatt – while detailing bombings of houses and churches on Christmas Eve — challenged the U.S. to take a stronger stance with the United Nations and its global goal of safeguarding religious freedom.
He also spoke of the psychological damage done to Christian children living through persecution – aggressive and passive – that will stay with them for years.
“They’ve had to live in fear,” he said. “They’ve committed no crime. They are children. When they go to their schools, they are not even sure if they will come back safe and sound or even alive.”
Reuters — a real news service out of London – cited a recent report stating that “about 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world, with conditions worsening for them most rapidly in Syria and Ethiopia, according to an annual report by the Christian advocacy group Open Doors.
The worst offenders still remain North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
Eight of the nations ranked in the top 10 for Christian persecution are Muslim states facing growing extremism.
North Korea does not allow Christianity, and deals with the practice harshly, putting around 70,000 Christians in what are, for all intents and purposes, concentration camps.
Certainly troubling in a world where most said “Never Again” after the Nazis did the same to Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and others not even 75 years ago.
If Hispanic is the new black on the domestic front, Christian is the new Jewish on the world stage.
“In recent years, we’ve been hearing that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world — that sounds right to us,” said Open Doors France director Michel Varton at a presentation of the report in Strasbourg.
Syria moved to No. 11 to from No. 36 on the list, largely due to the civil war and the largely inaccurate perception that the Christian minority has deep ties to the rebels.
Christian communities there have been intentionally displaced by militants. There have been shootings and beheadings of Christians who refused to convert to Islam, according to various news reports from the region.
Similar background stories exist in other countries, from Ethiopia (rising from No. 38 to No. 15, despite being two-thirds Christian) and Mali (No. 7 in this its first appearance on the ignominious list).
“There are over 65 countries where Christians are persecuted,” said the report released by Open Doors, which began in the 1950s smuggling Bibles into communist states and now works in more than 60 countries.
All but one of the 50 countries in the list – Colombia, which ranked 46th – were in Africa, Asia or the Middle East.
While Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers — or 32 percent of the world population, according to a report by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life — it reportedly faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries around the world.
While Pope Benedict, who is the spiritual leader for more than half the world’s Christians (Roman Catholics), seems to be keenly aware of the crisis, others are not.
In Germany, where anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are punishable crimes, politicians and human rights groups criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel for asserting it was pointless to try to rank religions according to how persecuted they were.
How and why is this happening now? Actually, wars that can be summed up as “my God can beat up your God” have been going on for thousands of years, but part of the recent uptick – aside from internal conflicts — is a consequence of migrant workers.
While Muslims have migrated to traditionally Christian European countries with some suspicion but without discernable venom and persecution, the same has not happened when the reverse has been the case.
Take Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States, which ranks second to North Korea in persecution of Christians. It is a nation that bans the public practice of any religion but Islam. However, as a wealthier Arab country, many of the workers coming to sweep the streets and dig the ditches are Christians from less-wealthy nations.
And the Arab Spring, most notably in Egypt – that 2011 event received a lot of feel-good coverage in the US on the 24-hour news networks that always seem to fall short on following a story once it’s not breaking – has generally spawned more Islamic fundamentalism and antagonism to Christian minorities.
So, just possibly, instead of creating Ebenezer Scrooges that don’t exist on the home front, maybe you should hit your knees and say a prayer for your Christian brethren than have become the world’s Tiny Tim.
What can be done about it?
Knowledge is power.
Now you have the knowledge.
But hey, before we get to work on that, let’s get the pleasantries out of the way now.
Merry Christmas to all.
And to all a good – and more meaningful — fight.