Book Review: Le livre noir de la condition des chrétiens dans le monde
Under the direction of: Jean-Michel de Falco, Timothy Radcliffe, Andrea Riccardi
Éditions XO, Paris, 2014
Coordinated by Samuel Lieven
“Le livre noir de la condition des chrétiens dans le monde” (The Black Book of the Condition of Christians in the World) is 811 pages in length which is divided into an Introduction, a main body of subsections and a Conclusion. The body of the text is divided into countries and regions where Christians are persecuted: Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America.
According to the introduction written by Jean-Michel di Flaco, bishop of Gap et d’Embrun in 2013 there were between 100 and 150 million Christians facing persecution world wide.
John Allen, Jr, in the introduction proposes four reasons for the persecution.
- The sheer number of Christians is so great that there is proportionally more persecution
- most of this persecution is outside of western countries, there is a fear of Christians
- In many areas the Christians are a minority as a religion and as an ethnic group
- Christianity is associated with the United States and western nations and ideology
Benedict XVI is quoted as saying that « La vérité ne peut être connue et vécue que dans la liberté » (Truth can’t be known and lived except in freedom).
The book looks at the facts of the recent past with the expulsion of Christians of all backgrounds, from their traditional inhabited areas. It seeks to learn the reasons for this in each “zone” of the world touched by this study. Each section referring to a country or region includes the facts of the numbers and situation on the ground, but also reports that touch on the personal.
The overall direction of the book is under three scholars who bring a diversity to the final product. And the number of contributors makes for a rich resource as to the current conditions for Christians in the world today. These contributors, from such a wide background, ensures a greater validity to the situation for Christians. This is not simply persecution of a few, but is often a near total destruction of a people from various countries and regions of the world. Pope Francis makes the point that: “the most persecuted religion in the Christian religion”
Contained in each section of the book divided as described above, there are personal stories recounted to reporters and scribes among the survivors in camps and towns where the Christians have fled. These testimonies make for frightening reading and the conditions of persecution terrible. In cases where insurgency is commonplace, there is the very real threat of death for non-conversion to Islam. Despite the deprivations, the hostility and the brutality the Christians face, they are resilient and seek a place for peaceful living in the regions that they have always inhabited. For those refusing conversion, and who are not able to flee, they are often taken away and not seen again. In one testimony, a young Christian man stood on his roof and shouted to the militia members of IS (Da’ash) below «Tuez-moi si vou voulez, mais je ne me convertirai pas » (Kill me if you want, but I won’t convert.)
Reports are collated in the various sections depicting the systematic persecution of Christians and the destruction of church buildings and personal property of Christians. In many parts of the world this loss is total and where people in many of these areas of the world live on the margins and in poverty, this is then a destruction of community and individual.
Some of the cases from Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly horrible as the atrocities committed by Boko Haram and al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb are not just property losses, but crimes against humanity as well. And in many of these cases appear to have at least tacit approval of the governments. In Asia and parts of eastern Europe and South America the persecution is often the denial of rights and threat of imprisonment. Communist and totalitarian regimes persecute Christians equally. With massive immigration from Muslim states, western Europe has faced increases in Christian persecution – at one time being only the secular state, but more often now from recent non-Christian immigrants and migrants.
“Le livre noir de la condition des chrétiens dans le monde” is concluded by Timothy Radcliffe who speaks about religious freedom, but equally about the proper treatment of all and the respect for human rights which is grossly absent for all persecuted humanity. He acknowledges individual cases of Christians as well as converts to Christianity and the choice of anyone to speak against imposed fundamentalism, Radcliffe quotes Pope Francis: “When I hear of the numbers of suffering Christians in the world, can I remain indifferent, or should I not consider it as members of my family who suffer.”
This book is well presented and littered with testimonies along with facts and figures. It is a scholarly work which does not attempt to sensationalize the facts but simply presents the reality of the very real persecution of millions of Christians worldwide. “Le livre noir de la condition des chrétiens dans le monde” is not yet available in any language but French but would be worth the effort to be translated and published in other languages.
(Translations of quotations are my own)