Saturday, October 25, 2008

Who is really silent?

media_monkeys A recent report on the persecution of Christians states in its introduction, "Nothing, it seems, escapes the media’s attention. But rarely if ever do we see anything on a matter that is crucial: the suffering that people endure for
their religious faith....The persecution of Christians in our world today amounts to a human rights disaster. It is a catastrophe that has been ignored by the media, almost as if a news black-out has been enforced."

This is a sentiment I hear expressed frequently.  At one time, I made such comments privately and publicly.  It did seem that Christian persecution just wasn't on the "radar screen" of most media outlets.  But during my recent vacation, I was reminded again how much this has changed in recent years.

My wife and I just returned from a 15 day cruise to Hawaii, courtesy of my parents.  For over eight of those days, we were were in the middle of the Pacific, far from land.  My only connection to the world was CNN (which was piped over the television in our cabin) and a four page summary of the New York Times.  Imagine my surprise and delight to read two separate stories during that time that had do to with the persecution facing Christians in India and Afghanistan.  Both stories reported the persecution fairly and sympathetically.

Returning home late Thursday night, I woke up the next morning and picked up the morning paper (as is my practice) and read a commentary on how Christians are persecuted in Egypt.  This morning, I read another persecution-related story about the testimony of a nun who was recently gang-raped in Orissa, India.  BBC covered this same story last night (last week, they produced an excellent video report on the persecution in Orissa).

Am I saying that the media couldn't do better?  Of course, they could.  But let's stop whining that the media rarely if ever reports on the persecution of Christians. It simply isn't so anymore. Having been in this kind of ministry full-time since 1997, I have seen a marked improvement.  Indeed, the secular media does a better job, in some cases, than religious media.  The silence of church leaders is probably the greater tragedy today. As a recent commentary by the St. Louis Jewish Light noted, recent media reports of persecution in India and Iraq did not contain a single statement of condemnation by Christian groups in the United States.  The same can be said of Canadian church leaders.

What we do need to do is to let the editors of those media outlets who do report on persecution know just how much we appreciate their covering of this important issue. We also need to let our church leaders know that we are disappointed with their silence.  Additionally, while it seems to me that the secular media has increased its coverage of persecution in the past couple of years, I have noted a marked decrease in the last couple of years in much of the Christian media. For example, only a few years ago many major Canadian Christian newspapers and magazines regularly carried at least one persecution story in each issue.  Such stories are increasingly rare.  We need to let these editors know that we expect better reporting from them.

My friends, we had better not complain about the secular media's silence when our own is even more perplexing and, quite frankly, inexcusable.

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