Century Marks

Century Marks

Violence against Christians

Anti-Christian violence is a greatly underreported problem, argues Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim from Somalia. Attacks against Christians increased 309 percent between 2003 and 2010 in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This violence for the most part isn't centrally planned and is the spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animosity. One of the most serious problems is in Nigeria, where an organization called Boko Haram wants to establish Islamic shari'a law. In 2011 its members killed more than 500 Chris­tians and destroyed or burned over 350 churches in ten of the northern states of Nigeria (Newsweek, February 13).

Old battle

Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island, believed that freedom of religion and political freedom were inextricably linked. Pagans, Jews, Turks and even anti-Christians should be given the freedom to worship as they wished, or not worship at all, he believed. Current public debates about the role of religion in public life go back to the conflict between Williams and the Massa­chusetts Puritans. The Puritans wanted to create a Christian commonwealth. Williams created a government that was based on the will of the people and didn't depend on God's blessing. Williams set the tone for the U.S. Constitution, which doesn't mention God or invoke God's blessings on the country (John M. Barry, author of Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, in the Los Angeles Times, February 5).

Drive-through

Last month a car drove through the front doors of the Happy Corner Church of the Brethren in Clayton, Ohio. The driver drove the car around the sanctuary, causing extensive damage. The driver then abandoned the car, which was thought to have been stolen (WDTN, January 19).

Faith

Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, says doctrine is needed in order to help Christians know how God acts in creation and in transformation. We must have doctrine in order to know what it is that we are to be attuned to. "But if doctrine doesn't make possible poetry and contemplation, then doctrine is a waste of time," he says. This "is where the poetic and contemplative touch the prophetic, because the prophetic is all about the diagnosis of dead words and false acts. The prophetic task is to smell out death in a situation" (Williams, A Silent Action).

Traumatized

The Salafists are the most influential movement in the Muslim world today, says Muslim scholar Rabia Terri Harris. They were originally an anti-imperial movement that resisted the Ottoman Empire. Harris believes that all radical Muslims groups, such as the Salafists, al-Qaeda and the Taliban, are inclined to violence and to utopianism as a consequence of the trauma inflicted on the Muslim world by the Ottoman Empire, Western nations and autocratic Muslim governments. "The solution to trauma is not more trauma; it is healing," says Harris. "The solution to traumatized Islam is not further attacks on Islam; it is supporting natural regeneration from within" (Interfaith Just Peacemaking, edited by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite).