(Delivered by Ambassador Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations in New York at the Protection of Religious Minorities in the Middle East with special focus on persecuted Christians. Hungary, the Vatican, the United States, Uzbekistan, and Iraq also spoke at the United Nations).
Thank you. It was Hungary’s initiative that inspired the Philippines to join her in defense of freedom of religion for which, actually, democracy was established on the American continent—we sometimes forget. (It wasn’t for freedom of the press.) Thank you Iraq for your soul-stirring remarks, for saying that Iraq without its minorities would not be Iraq, for telling us about the Iraqis’ football hero who was buried in the national stadium on a patch of Christian consecrated ground, and that an Iraqi soldier, shouldering an assault rifle and carrying a cross to return it to its original place in your Muslim country. Your words make it hard for me to say mine but here goes:
The horrors visited on Rohingya for their religion and race have been well publicized and roundly condemned. That has given them some relief though little rescue. Same with horrors visited on Tibetans. From the universal condemnation of their persecution has emerged a stronger definition of what is intractably Tibet. Equally known and abhorred are the horrors visited on other Muslims in Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia, and on Shia by Sunni and on Sunni by Shia and on both by Baath. But the horrors—the mass murders of Yazidi males of every age and the gang rapes followed by the trafficking of Yazidi women and girls into—don’t call it prostitution but slavery. They are treated worse than commodities, which are handled with care for the better price they fetch. These horrors are ignored so that now there are almost none left to save.
Yazidis are of an older religion touched by Christianity; they wear a crucifix for protection. But they, along with Coptics and other original Christian communities are well on the way to violent extinction throughout the Middle East—without a peep of official protest from Western civilization; which Gandhi said would be a good thing if the West gave it a try.
Uniquely, Christianity has never really gone to war to protect its own. The Crusades were payback for the near run thing at the Battle of Tours. They were little more than treasure hunts—their biggest martial endeavor was the sack of Constantinople where Crusaders waded up to their ankles in the blood of the Christians they slaughtered in Hagia Sophia.
Christian powers when attacked do not turn the other cheek but swing their arms with every weapon in the devil’s arsenal. But exterminate a small Christian community in the petro-dollar rich Middle East and they continue to do business with the exterminators.
Try that with Buddhists in Southeast Asia and Muslims in the Middle East, Hindus in the main body of the subcontinent and Muslims on both its shoulders—and the retaliation will be pitiless. Christianity must be the preeminently powerless religion. In its avowed weakness, misusing Paul it finds an excuse not to defend the faithful in peril. The Savior indeed is a King without armies and loses more and more of His faithful because of that.
Are Christians so certain of the perdurable verity of their faith that they will not lift a finger to protect their weak brethren? When the last Christians huddle in the ruins of the last church, will they say, “We should have done something to protect our own when we had power—before now when it is too late?” With the last of us will die our faith; for where there are no more Christians Christianity is no more.
Meanwhile the extinction of ancient Christian communities continues in the birthplace of Christianity; those which had the closest contact with its teachings and rites in their original purity. When Christianity is so diluted that it doesn’t feel Christian anymore, there will be no Christians left in the desolate places—from whom we might learn how far we strayed from the path trod by the Savior and His Apostles in their time upon this earth.
The Philippines has pioneered and taken the lead by a mile for religious tolerance because it is the only country that practices it without breaking a sweat. It has signed one compact after another to that end, and yet the killings continue. Compacts inspire more compacts and that’s good. Compacts show what we agree on is bad; and what good we must do to make up for them. But there must be an end to agreements and a beginning of action. The violence of evil can only be defeated by the forces of good.
The Buddha said, “If a man is struck by an arrow in the chest, do you first ask whence the arrow came? Who was the archer? Had he good reason to target the man? No. You stanch the bleeding and break the shaft so your hand can move freely around the wound. Then you consider whether to push the arrow in and out his back, or pull it out without widening the wound, or leave it in place. Better to save the man first. Save your queries and sustainable solutions for a better time.
By then you’ll have done your best to save the man or lost him. After that hunt for the archer; break his quiver of arrows that he may never again hurt another. Only after should you consider holistic, sustainable and preventive solutions. Thank you.