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ICC Note: Was the killing of a Dutch priest in Homs, Syria just an isolated incident? The reality is that his death, while just one of nearly 150,000 in the past three years in Syria, is also just one of many such incidents that are driven because of ones identification as a Christian. From a Coptic girl in Egypt, to a Dutch priest in Syria, and many, many more, there is ample evidence, John L. Allen writes, to support the idea of a war on Christianity.
By John L. Allen Jr.
04/12/2014 Syria (Boston Globe) – Dutch Jesuit priest Frans van der Lugt, killed in Syria last week just shy of his 76th birthday, personified the best of the missionary spirit in Catholicism. He spent 50 years in his adopted country, humbly serving poor and disabled persons regardless of their race or religion.
Whenever a Syrian came to his door seeking help, van der Lugt told a friend, “I don’t see Muslims or Christians, only human beings.”
At the time of his death, van der Lugt was the last Westerner in the bitterly contested city of Homs. On Monday morning, a still-unidentified assailant dragged him into the street outside his Jesuit residence, beat him, and then shot him twice in the head.
Most observers believe the killer was an Islamic radical, though a few suspect the Assad regime may have orchestrated the murder in order to blame the rebels.
For the last several years, van der Lugt served at a small center for mentally and physically disabled people. A Muslim charity would give him around nine pounds of flour every week, which he turned into bread, giving half a loaf to the 30 neediest people he knew.
“I try to help the mentally ill,” van der Lugt said in a recent interview, “not by analyzing their problems, as the problems are obvious and there’s no solution for them here. I listen to them and give as much food as I can.”
Because van der Lugt was a Westerner and part of a high-profile international religious order, his death made headlines. Many similar tragedies, however, never do.
Earlier this month, a 25-year-old Coptic Christian woman in Egypt named Mary Sameh George was hauled from her car near a church in Cairo, mauled to such an extent that portions of her scalp were torn off, and then killed when her throat was slit.
The assailants reportedly were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Vietnam, a Catholic convert and human rights activist named Dinh Dang Dinh died April 4 of untreated stomach cancer in prison, having been jailed in 2012 for “antistate propaganda.”
In that context, van der Lugt’s death has to be seen as part of a dramatic, and often untold, religion story of the early 21st century — the global war on Christians.
To be sure, Christians are not the only group experiencing hardship, nor do they always have clean hands themselves. Christians can be oppressors just as easily as they can suffer oppression. In many circumstances, the motives for anti-Christian violence are mixed, having as much to do with politics, ethnicity, and struggles for material resources as religion.
Also, alarmist rhetoric about a “war on religion” in places such as the United States is sometimes stretched past the breaking point, applied not to actual violence and oppression but to policy debates about which reasonable people draw differing conclusions.
That said, the scope and scale of real anti-Christian violence around the world is nonetheless staggering.

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