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    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Opportunities for Martyrdom


    The main culprits behind the martyrdom of Christians appears to be shifting from the ideologies of yesteryear to the Muslim fundamentalism of today.

    The most recent, high-profile example of the tendency was the case of the teen-ager in Turkey arrested in the murder of Father Andrea Santoro. The young Turk reportedly told authorities that he was driven by hatred aroused by the cartoons of Mohammed published in the Western press.

    It is thought that it is something that could only happen in the times of the first Christians, in the Colosseum, and that no longer happens. But in numbers, martyrdom has never been more prevalent.

    Look at Turkey itself. It has always been dangerous for Catholic priests. Although it describes itself as a secular regime, in fact tolerance of Christians is very low.

    Therefore, I am not surprised that Turkey was the scene of Father Santoro's murder. But this case shows the type of degeneration of events that we might continue to see in the near future, because of the growing tension between East and West.

    It reveals that there are many fanatics, in this case Muslims, ready to take recourse to violence at the least provocation.

    When the Americans were in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, for example, they were ordered not to pray before the battles. And there, as almost anywhere in the Muslim world, a Muslim who converts to Christianity can be punished with death.

    But the rights of Christians are regularly violated, and by law, in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, the Arab Emirates and Turkey. And things are getting worse. I see, for example, outbursts of anti-Christian violence also in Egypt, in addition to, of course, Iraq.

    There is also China and North Korea, and threats exist in the Western countries themselves. In many European countries we are witnessing in fact the birth of anti-Christian and anti-religious movements that can be very violent.

    It is a hatred born from a feeling of profound humiliation that has its roots in the history of the past century, beginning with World War I.

    But now the resentment is sharp. Of course there are many reasons to reflect on the conduct of the West vis-à-vis the Middle East. But the difference is that Christians are prepared for dialogue, while in many Muslim countries the atmosphere is too poisoned to allow for an honest confrontation in equality.

    So says Robert Royal, author of the 2002 book "The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century."
    Outside the Christian world, things are getting noticeably darker.

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