Rome (Agenzia Fides) – “It is difficult to make precise estimates, however, according to international reports, we can say that more than 50 million Christians suffer persecution, contempt, and discrimination.” This is what was said in an interview by Fides with French intellectual René Guitton, author of “Christianophobia”, who is in Rome for the presentation of the 2010 Report on Religious Freedom in the world, published by "Aid to the Church in Need". The Fides interview follows.
What does “Christianophobia” mean?
It's a coined word but it is easy to understand: it means the exclusion, the phobia against Christians. It aims to summarise a hatred of Christians as such. In my life I have fought all forms of communalism that result in the exclusion of others. But that of Christianophobia is a phenomenon that has especially developed in the last 10 years: this is why I created this word.
Therefore, is it a new phenomenon?
We can say that is new, but it has been there, concealed for centuries. It began to be expressed clearly after independence was achieved by countries that had been colonized, but it has been greatly accentuated since September 11 because of the extremist minorities who are Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist, leading openly to hostility and violence against the Christian community. To this end it can be described as “new”. Christianophobia has exploded once again, for example, when Pastor Terry Jones in America threatened to burn the Koran. Even the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East was regarded as an attack on Islamic extremist groups. Whatever Christians do or say is a pretext for aggression. So we can safely say that there is an anti-Christian hatred.
Can you cite the figures?
This is very difficult because the estimates are also rather mixed on the same number of Christian minorities in various countries around the world. However we can say that the Christian victims of persecution, contempt and discrimination, are roughly 50 million worldwide.
What are the roots of Christianophobia?
Christianophobia has emerged mainly in those countries which gained independence after the 1950s. The western settlers, were identified as Christians, in a cultural-religious amalgamation. Even today, these reasons are dusted off by Islamic extremist groups against the West and they justify acts of violence as a response to the suffering endured in the past. Certainly it is schematic and simplistic reasoning, but that is what is used to blame the Christians and justify violence.
Do you believe that an “alliance of civility” between Christianity and Islam is possible?
It starts from a given: the West is defined as Christian and the East as Muslim. To establish an alliance, it is necessary to overcome this habit and address problems at a global level, for example at the level of the United Nations. If Christians only defend Christians, Jews protect Jews, Muslims their fellow Muslims, the obstacles remain. We must address the problem of violence as an inhuman act, we should protect all minorities and all religious communities, and then we can help to narrow the gap between different communities. The alliance is possible if we all learn to defend human rights and to fight against persecution committed against any religious community, and protect all minorities, which are attacked, in both the East and the West.
Do you see a glimmer of hope?
Hope comes from the new world, made of migration and globalization. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, churches are being built for the presence of Christian immigrants (mainly from the Philippines and from Africa). We hope and wish for a globalization of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, a globalization of rights.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 24/11/2010)