A new report (and documentary) from Notre Dame, Under Caesar’s Sword, is the fruit of a collaborative research project on the response of Christians around the globe to religious persecution. It is also a call to action.
By Gabriel Said Reynolds, Commonweal
The report reveals why religious freedoms are best defended universally, and not only in cases where Christians are the victims. Already in the 1990s, when attention to the persecution of Christians was increasing, an initial proposal to pass a resolution in the U.S. Congress against “Christian persecution” was enlarged to cover religious persecution generally.
The result was the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (which created an “Ambassador at Large” for religious freedom). Nevertheless, Christians continue to suffer disproportionately from religious persecution. By one 2009 estimate, Christians are the victims of 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination around the globe.
Attention to the global persecution of Christians has indeed increased in recent years. John Allen (The Global War on Christians) and Rupert Shortt (Chistianophobia) have written on this topic, as have Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea in their book Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians. But Under Caesar’s Sword, edited by Daniel Philpott of Notre Dame and Timothy Shah of Baylor and Georgetown, is different in part because of its focus on Christian responses to persecution. Their findings suggest that Christians respond differently based on their political, social, and cultural context.
What is possible in India, for example, may not be possible in Saudi Arabia. Their findings also highlight the need for policymakers, church leaders, and Christian activists in the West to be attentive to the lessons and experiences of Christians who have variously endured, fought against, or fled from persecution.