Pictured: Sobame Da, a mainly Christian village in Mali, after the June 2019 attack by Fulani gunmen in which 100 men, women and children were slaughtered. (Image source: United Nations/MINUSMA/Flickr)
"In the Amazon rainforest, which is of vital importance for the planet, a deep crisis has been triggered by prolonged human intervention, in which a 'culture of waste' (LS 16) and an extractivist mentality prevail", the Vatican stated.
"The Amazon is a region with rich biodiversity; it is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious; it is a mirror of all humanity which, in defense of life, requires structural and personal changes by all human beings, by nations, and by the Church."
That is why a Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region has been scheduled to meet in Rome from October 6 to 27. In an interview with Italian paper La Stampa, Pope Francis said that one of the biggest challenges to the Amazon region is the "threat to the life of the populations and territory which derives from the economic and political interests of the dominant sectors of society."
The program for the Amazon's synod in Rome talks about "life threatened", "inculturation and interculturality", "extractivist destruction" and "indigenous peoples", among other matters. There is, however, another group of "indigenous people" whose life has been "threatened" and who live under an existential physical "destruction." They are the persecuted Christians, and the Vatican should dedicate the next synod to them.
"They asked him to deny Christ and when he refused they cut off his right hand; then he refused [again], they cut to the elbow. In which he refused, before they shot him in the forehead, the neck, and chest," a Nigerian Christian, Enoch Yeohanna, recently recounted about his father's murder in 2014. The trial of Nigerian Christians has been defined "a global nightmare." But it is happening in many countries.
"The persecution of Christians throughout the world is one of the great evils of our time", Fr. Benedict Kiely, the founder of Nasarean.org, dedicated to relieving the persecution of Christians, recently wrote.
"The mainstream media is remarkably silent about attacks on Christians. In the same week as the awful attack on the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand—a heinous and unconscionable crime—more than two hundred Christians were killed in Nigeria. There was hardly any mention of the latter in the news. There were no marches for martyred Christians, no tolling of church bells ordered by governments, no "Je suis Charlie" t-shirts... no public outrage at all."
Boko Haram terrorists recently cut off the ears of Christian women after snatching them from their homes during a night-time raid on a mainly Christian town in northern Cameroon. The organization Barnabas Fund explained that "the Islamist extremists broke into homes, grabbed the women and dragged them to the outskirts of Gagalari town in the district of Yagoua where they sliced off one ear from each victim." A few days later, also in Cameroon, a Bible translator, Angus Fung, was butchered to death and his wife's arm cut off. Then, a Catholic priest, David Tanko, was killed in Nigeria and his car and body set ablaze. Last month, another Nigerian priest, Paul Offu, was murdered. Last year, two Catholic priests and 13 worshippers were among the victims in a single attack in Nigeria.
Four Christians in Burkina Faso were recently murdered for wearing crosses. "The Islamists arrived and forced everybody to lie face down on the ground," recounted Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of the Diocese of Dori.
"Then they searched them. Four people were wearing crucifixes. So they killed them because they were Christians. After murdering them, the Islamists warned all the other villagers that if they did not convert to Islam they, too, would be killed."
Hundreds of Christians, including 433 children, are "facing attacks or fleeing from rampaging Islamist extremists in Mali," where in June, 100 men, women and children were slaughtered in Sobame Da, a mainly Christian village.
David Curry, the president of Open Doors, an American non-governmental organization (NGO) that tracks the persecution of Christians, has defined Christian women as "the most persecuted group in the world." Their oppression and mutilation is astonishing. In Nigeria, Boko Haram is still holding a kidnapped girl, Leah Sharibu. She could have been freed along with her schoolmates, but Leah refused to renounce her Christian faith. Christian women are also kidnapped and enslaved in Pakistan. "Every year at least a thousand girls are kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam, even forced to marry their tormentors," said Tabassum Yousaf, a Catholic lawyer linked to the Italian NGO, St. Egidio. This is a recurring pattern also in Egypt, where Christian women are facing an "epidemic of kidnapping, rape, beatings and torture."
The most famous of these persecuted Christian women, Asia Bibi, unjustly spent nearly a decade in Pakistani prison for "blasphemy" -- much of that time on death row -- before she was freed. In May, she was flown to Canada, where she was reunited with her family. According to Bibi:
"When my daughters visited me in jail, I never cried in front of them, but when they went after meeting me in jail, I used to cry alone filled with pain and grief. I used to think about them all the time, how they are living."
NASA's satellites observed the Amazon fires, prompting world leaders to pledge to protect the rainforest. But the burning, chopping and murder of Christians is not tracked by satellites and their suffering is not seen on our televisions and newspapers. Actually, it seems in the West as if the persecution of Christians does not even exist. The Vatican, Pope Francis, other clerics and the media have a choice: to shed a light on these persecuted Christians or be accused of willful blindness.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.