If we’re honest with ourselves, we will admit that allies are difficult to find. The pro-life movement is still overwhelmingly composed of serious Catholics, socially aware evangelicals, and a handful of Christians from other denominations or secular people who have grasped the fact the beginning and thus sanctity of life is a scientific and moral fact rather than a spiritual and theological theory. Because of this we sometimes reach out to almost anyone we can, and I have heard numerous suggestions recently that the emerging Islamic community – surely pro-life – must be embraced because of its numbers and activism.
First, it is wrong to think of Islamic theology as comparable to Christianity or Judaism; it is influenced by both, but not shaped by the same moral imperative and natural law demands. When it comes to the unborn, individual Muslims will provide myriad responses. Islam itself, however, believes that the soul enters the child at the third month of development, and thus becomes a person. While abortion is uncommon in most Islamic countries, this is more due to culture and social norms than religious beliefs, which is one of the reasons there are so few Muslims concerned about abortion in North America and Europe.
But let’s look further afield at the problems here. This summer a Coptic Christian Church in Upper Egypt dating from the 4th century was destroyed by the Muslim Brotherhood. It was not of any military significance, and was attacked simply because it was a church. A further 40 churches were then destroyed in Egypt by Muslim mobs. Some of the buildings were ancient, some modern; most the former however, because it is extremely difficult in Egypt and in most Muslim countries for Christians to get permission to build new churches and repair old ones.
I suppose that compared to the tens of thousands of people killed and wounded in various Muslim wars and terror campaigns this is trivial. Yet no matter how tragic human suffering is, the deliberate removal of a 4th century church from Egypt is on a different level of sociological violence and ethnic cleansing. You see, Christianity pre-dates Islam by 600 years, and Egypt was a majority Christian country long before Islam existed. The attack on the church was a clear statement to the 15 per cent of Egyptians who refuse to abandon Christ: “You do not belong, you never existed.”
At almost the same time as the church was destroyed, a little Christian girl, ten-year-old Jessica Boulous, was shot through the chest and killed in Cairo as she walked home from a Bible class. Her teacher had briefly turned away to buy something from a market. “I just can’t believe she is gone,” Nasr Allah Zakaria, her uncle, said. “She was such a sweet little girl. She was like a daughter to me.”
We should remember Jessica as a daughter to the world. As a symbol of the legions of Christians who have been martyred in Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, China, and elsewhere. But mostly, it must be admitted, in the Muslim world. Not just the Arab world; the Islamic world. The Copts of Egypt are the indigenous people of the country, with far more rights to the land than many Muslims. But while the world will sympathize with Palestinians or, for that matter, Canadian natives and Australian aboriginals, it prefers to ignore persecuted Christians.
A former speechwriter to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff went so far as to actually mock the plight of these poor souls when I wrote of them on my Twitter account recently. British actor and author Stephen Fry recently wrote a letter to his Prime Minister, David Cameron, demanding action be taken against Russia for its legislation regarding gay demonstrations. Will he write something similar for Christians tortured to death, raped, and imprisoned? Of course not. All Russia has done is to limit public displays of homosexuality, while simultaneously protecting individual gay people. Islamic regimes and organizations murder innocent followers of Jesus.
The situation in Egypt will probably get worse before it gets better, and the one guarantee we have is that – just like the Jews of the past – when social breakdown and chaos occurs, the majority will somehow find a way to blame and beat the Christians. There are fashionable causes, trendy minorities, easy campaigns to support. Then there are the genuine cases of massive suffering, the open wounds on the international body politic. The world has turned its back before, and held its head in shame afterwards. The phrase “Never Again” sounds somewhat hollow right now, and this agony is not historical but contemporary. Its colour is blood red.
Being pro-life is about more than the defence of the unborn, the most vulnerable in society. I would welcome new people, different people, of all religions, into the pro-life family. But first they would have to be genuinely, consistently pro-life.