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Rider, 2012 - Christianity - 298 pages
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"The aim of this book is twofold: One is to counter the huge weight of column inches being spent on the perceived, and actual, persecution of Islam. The second is to turn up the volume on the side of Christians rather than Atheists (a position which has been underpinned so vociferously by Dawkins et al in recent times). In fact there have been - and still are - many terrible stories of murder, oppression and persecution of Christians around the world, in East Timor, Burma, Egypt, China, Iran, and many other countries. The reason we don't hear much about them, says the author, is the fear of giving offence; the fact young Christians don't become radicalised; and persecuted Christians tend not to respond with violence. Yet Christians are persecuted in greater numbers than any other global religious body, and this fact is severely under-recognised. It looks likely interfaith relations will be a major challenge of the 21st century, and harmony between religions is looking pretty remote. Why are faiths now so associated with violent conflict? Why has the communications revolution had a deeper impact on Islam than on Christianity? Why is there a tendency to associate Christianity with the West, and with overt/covert forms of colonialism? Just how insular and prejudiced are we in the West about Christians abroad?"

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We should be reluctant to add to the real or imagined ‘phobias’ which are said to afflict our own society and others in relations to people ad communities of a different religion or ethnic or class background. The term ‘Christianophobia’ like its ‘Islamophobia’ counterpart is not necessarily a useful or accurate term used to describe often very different circumstances of civil conflict. But in this valuable and extensively researched book Rupert Shortt focuses not on mere social prejudice, but on real instances of persecution of Christian communities in countries where they often have a long established and historic presence but are now a diminishing minority. He finds that on a global scale more Christians face active discrimination, and often violent persecution, than followers of any other religion. Historically Christian governments and churches have themselves been some of the most active perpetrators of persecution, both against those of other faiths or against coreligionists of a different sectarian denomination. Within Islamic countries today Shia-Sunni sectarian rivalry, both religious and political, is a major component of civil conflict. Perhaps even more than Islamic jihadism, it has overshadowed the justified historic reputation of Islam and some Islamic regimes as protectors of religious minorities, and (in contrast to historic Christianity in Europe), a beacon of religious toleration. Shortt notes that in today’s Europe there is nothing that justifies claims of ‘persecution’ of Christians. However he has more sympathy than socalled’ liberal’ commentators for the argument that in Britain secular values and laws based on them,- which are novel by any religious standards,- are replacing more traditional Christian-backed social customs at a faster rate than justified by the social philosophy that is said to support them. That is another debate. But the real threats set out in this book to individuals and communities world-wide, are and should be a matter for international concern.
William Crawley University of London 23.4.13

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About the author (2012)

Rupert Shortt is Religion Editor of the TLS, and a Visiting Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. He lives in London.

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