"Neither the horror of what Christians go through at the hands of Islamists and others, nor the scale of the crisis of Christian populations in the Middle East especially, appears to be widely known, let alone the subject of public concern." So wrote Peter D. Williams, the Catholic social and political commentator in the online journal Spiked.
His article was published at the end of last May, days after 28 Coptic Christians were killed and many more wounded on their way to a monastery in Egypt. The same week, Williams reported, there were also two attacks on Christians in the Philippines.
His conclusion is that "it's hard not to suspect that the reason why the persecution of Christians is not being reported widely across the globe is not merely due to over-familiarity, but because of active disinterest." He suggests that "more could and would be done if the Western media gave Christians subjected to the cruellest and filthiest forms of tortuous hate the attention and concern their situation truly deserves."
As a result, according to Prof. Jonathan Adelman of the University of Denver writing in The World Post, the Christian population in the Middle East has dropped from 20 per cent in 1900 to 4 per cent today. It's likely to drop another per cent by 2050.
The only exception is the Jewish State of Israel where, according to Adelman, "the 160,000 Israeli Christians live as citizens in a democratic First World country with freedom of religion, rule of law and open elections." They can move anywhere, their holy places are secure and their churches own much land in Jerusalem.
Adelman isn't blind to problems that the Christian minority is facing also in Israel, mostly by the hands of bureaucrats and some Jewish fanatics. Yet, he insists, "Israel is the only place in the Middle East where the Christians are growing in number. They are excelling in education, doing well in business and feeling relatively safe from their radical tormentors."
Jews have known for much of their history the lethal power of religious prejudice, much of it manifest as Christian anti-Semitism. It's therefore gratifying to know that, despite the past, Jews are now providing a safe haven for Christians.
But Israel isn't in a position to solve the global problem. Collectively, however, the Western world -- where most Christians reside and many still greatly influence public discourse and policy -- could and should do very much more than they seem to be doing.
That was ostensibly the purpose of the World Summit in Defence of Persecuted Christians held In Washington in early May. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made the promising declaration that "protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Trump administration."
Though he assured the audience they "have the prayers of the president of the United States" and that "the suffering of Christians in the Middle East has stirred Americans to action," it's not clear if this will go beyond rhetoric and result in tangible deeds.
Having experienced Catholic-laced anti-Semitism as a child in Poland after the horrors of the Holocaust, I identify with the millions of Christians around the world who're now facing extinction. I'm astounded that the very resourceful churches here and elsewhere don't seem to be doing enough to protect them. Some, particularly ostensibly liberal Christians, appear to be much keener to find faults with Israel's treatment of Muslims than to actively support Christians in Muslim lands.
Even if they may not be able to defeat extremism, they should seek measures to protect Christian minorities in ways that go far beyond President Trump's prayers.
Dow Marmur is rabbi emeritus at Toronto's Holy Blossom Temple.