Can the press be complicit in crimes against humanity? Or is it obstruction of justice? How else to account for their failure to report the ongoing bloodshed and carnage inflicted upon Christians in the Middle East and North Africa?
Earlier this month, a representative from the Vatican appeared on Capitol Hill before a House subcommittee to discuss the “flagrant and widespread persecution” of Christians in the Middle East. One of seven speakers, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, noting that this growing threat targets all those who practice Christianity, Arab or not, explained that Christian communities in Syria are being decimated and worshippers kidnapped, shot or beheaded if they refuse to convert to Islam.
As January came to a close, a delegation of Christian leaders from Syria came to the United States to make their case about the plight of Christians in their country. Dr. Riad Jarjour, a Presbyterian clergyman, told a crowd at the Heritage Foundation, “If things continue the way [they are], there will come a time [when] there will be no more Christians in Syria.”
Echoing Dr. Jarjour’s fears was world-renowned authority on jihadist ideology and Islamic persecution of Christian minorities Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, Director of the London-based Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity. Dr. Sookhdeo illustrated the point with an historical reference to the 1915 genocide of Christian minorities as their communities in Armenia and Syria were destroyed. At that time the West “stood by and watched.” As a witness to the current atrocities in Syria, Dr. Sookhdeo stood before the Heritage audience in supplication: “We would plead for your media to break the silence.”
Ultimately the question is: Why is the media silent about the horrors committed against Christians?
With all the turmoil engulfing the Middle East and surrounding areas, there is no shortage of reporters or news bureaus in that part of the world. Yet, the massacre of Christians doesn’t make the pages of the New York Times or warrant a spot on the NBC Nightly News.
On Tuesday, mainstream media outlets reported the massacre of 29 students in Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram. However, these reports fail to mention this group’s history of attacking Christian churches and villages as well as their message of “convert or die” to Christian women.
Since August 2011, the not-for-profit international policy council and think tank Gatestone Institute has been providing a monthly report tracking the “persecution of Christians in the Islamic world.” They specifically state that one of their objectives for this ongoing series is “to document that which the mainstream media often seems to fail to report.”
It’s hard to argue that traditional news outlets are not consciously avoiding the story. In November, one of the world’s most media covered individuals, Pope Francis, addressed the atrocities being committed against Christians in the Middle East when he declared, after meeting patriarchs from Syria, Iraq and Iran, “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.”
Strong words from the head of the Catholic Church. But newsworthy? Apparently not!
Do the mainstream media simply disdain Christians? I doubt it. Are they afraid of offending Islam? A safe bet. The fact is that nobody can truly tell what is in another’s heart. But what we do know about the current journalism profession is that the mainstream media outlets have a soft spot for the Obama administration. If President Barack Obama doesn’t acknowledge a situation as a crisis, then it isn’t one.
And that may be the underlying problem.
President Obama has avoided using his office to acknowledge the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.
The family of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been held in Iran for over a year, was devastated to learn that the administration didn’t even attempt to secure his release when they entered into nuclear talks and eventual agreement this past November.
At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, the president pontificated, “We believe that each of us is ‘wonderfully made’ in the image of God. We therefore believe in the inherent dignity of every human being — dignity that no earthly power can take away. And central to that dignity is freedom of religion...”
“Wonderful” words from the leader of the free world. Unfortunately Obama’s homiletics and Washington’s social events don’t have very much impact on beheadings in Syria and the burning of churches in Nigeria. A diligent press, on the other hand – a press that doesn’t cherry-pick the atrocities it chooses to report, a press that keeps governments accountable – can indeed save lives and safeguard the dignity consecrated by President Obama’s rhetoric.
Paul Miller is an op-ed contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. He serves as principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-based new media and political consulting firm. Follow Paul on Twitter @Pauliespoint.