The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution
John L. Allen, Jr.
New York: Image 2013
Allen, a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter, has provided an excellent overview of specific persecution against Christians around the world. The first section of the book gives a brief overview of different regions of the world and how persecution is being carried out against Christians in those areas. Each chapter provides a regional overview and specific stories of martyrdom. As one might expect the chapter detailing events in the Middle East occupies the most pages. While his information is timely as of the publication of the book, the organizations he cites in his overview are important sources for up to the minute details and statistics.
The second section of the book outlines several myths that Western Christians tend to hold regarding persecution. For example Allen reminds his reader that persecution is occurring even in countries with a majority Christian population. He writes, “By far the largest concentration of martyrs was in the Soviet Union, with as many as twenty-five million killed inside Russia and an additional eight million in Ukraine. Both…are profoundly Christian societies….”(p. 176). He goes on to identify a number of martyrs from the 20th and 21st centuries from societies where Christians are indeed considered the majority of the population.
Other myths Allen seeks to destroy are that persecution is related to the growth of Islam and all persecution directed against Christians is religiously motivated. He points out that “the highest number of casualties has not come in the Muslim world. That distinction belongs to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation of seventy one million people that’s overwhelmingly Christian” (p. 201). He identifies a ‘galaxy of threats’ against Christians, including Buddhism, organized crime, and other Christians as legitimate threats.
Allen wraps up his observations with some observations from his years of reporting and some suggested actions that might be taken as a result of his research. He suggests that persecution has created theological breakthroughs as believers grapple with suffering as the normal understanding of Christian discipleship. He also seeks to rally readers around a broader ecumenical understanding of the ‘church,’ particularly from a Roman Catholic understanding. Finally, he suggests basic responses such as prayer, political advocacy on a global scale, and institutional reforms making it possible for refugees to flee to safer environments.
The title “Global War” attracts attention as does the subject matter. Written well and researched meticulously Allen’s book is a welcome addition to the growing body of research on persecution against Christians.