Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack by Rupert Shortt

On the jacket: 

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?


christianophobia was a bit of a controversial read. It isn't a faith that I follow myself, but I have grown up with others who do, been to a school which does. Now, the author, has spoken about the low tolerance which Christians all over the world face in various countries across the world, mainly non-Christian ones, specially by followers of Islam. One can wrong this point by mentioning incidents where Muslims have saved Christians, or where Christians themselves have showed very low tolerance towards Muslims, Hindus, Jews - but that bit is not featured in the book.

While I cannot dispute the facts of intolerance mentioned in the book, because, well, they are facts, I do know for sure that the opposite has also happened. The book is divided into chapters, each devoted to a country, 19 in all. It speaks about persecution of Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Nigeria, Indonesia, India, Burma, China, Vietnam and North Korea, and Israel. A final chapter quickly examines Cuba, Venezuela, Belarus, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Sudan.

The book is a bit too generalised and one-sided for me, as a reader. While I am not disputing the facts, purely trusting the sources the writer got his data from but since India was mentioned, I would say, every faith is threatened, and a lot of people believe so. Others treat faith as a faith and nothing more. Every religion has it's own tolerance and as per what I believe, if a country does't claim to be secular, it can 'not' behave secular. It all comes down to humanity and how we treat another individual as a human, irrespective of his religion. 

To talk about this book, it was a revelation of sorts. One might agree to the contents or not, but reading it definitely was an experience. 

Rating: ***/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.] 

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