BOOK REVIEW

Martyrs of the 21st Century

Perhaps Robert Royal, author of The Catholic Martyrs in the 20th Century, best captures the essence of George Marlin’s latest book, when he writes, “In the twentieth century, atheists persecuted Christians. In this century, Middle Eastern Muslims are oppressing, driving away, and killing entire historic Christian communities.”

Persecution might not be the first word that comes to mind when one thinks about the 21st century.  In fact, not only is it not the word of choice for the description of this particular period, but rather, it might be viewed by some as an archaic symbol of barbarous times long since passed, a relic of an old, outdated era, which knew nothing of the peace brought about through the tolerance of the late 20th century.

Consequently, it might come as somewhat of a shock to some members of modern society to find out that this century is just as racked with persecution and bloodshed as any other, or, perhaps, even more so.

George J. Marlin brings to light abhorrent events taking place in the Middle East at the present time. His latest book evidences the tragic stories of Christian persecution in the Middle East, stories of discrimination and torment, stories of courage and steadfastness through hard times, stories of sadness, stories of a faith being oppressed possibly on the edge of extinction in this region of the world.

The author, a contributing editor of TheCatholicThing.org, contributor to the New York Post and political columnist for the Long Island Business News, addresses the subject boldly, relating the facts as they are, while providing reliable support data.

His book is organized in three parts: The Middle East: A Historic Overview, where Marlin talks about the beginnings of Christianity and Islam in the region, as well as the rise of Islamist Terrorism; The Unthinkable in the 21st Century, where he describes the horrific experiences of Christians living in countries of the Middle East, such as Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon; and, Christian Perspectives on the Middle East, here, the testimonies of several priests and religious workers from the region provide firsthand testimony on the current plight of believers raising “key questions surrounding the fate of Christianity in the Middle East.”

Readers will find some of the most powerful chapters in ‘Part Two’ of the book, which relate how Christians live their lives in Middle Eastern countries today.

While on the subject of Turkey, the last vestige of the Ottoman Empire, the author brings into discussion its democratic reformer, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, stating: “The 1925 constitution permitted elections of a legislature and voting rights for all citizens. Every four years there were to be elections for the office of President and the Assembly.” The reality, however, was much different. “Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had become a dictator. As President, Commander of the Army, and head of the People’s Party, he made all important decisions and the Assembly merely endorsed his wishes.” Marlin does, nonetheless, give Ataturk credit for Turkey’s having become a secular nation under his rule. Yet, after this transformation from a Sharia ruled state to secular nation, Marlin points out the country is slowly but steadily regressing. He underlines how the Christian communities in Turkey are in danger of disappearing because of the strict regulations that virtually forbid them to follow their faith, build new churches, and even feel welcomed in their own country.

The second part of the book also refers to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan and South Sudan. Most of the author’s narration of these countries revolves around discrimination, violence, torture, rape, and murder, as they are the realities with which most Christians in this region have had to become accustomed.

In examining the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, another, perhaps better known example of intolerance, which has “the worst records concerning religious freedom,” Marlin points out that in this state, the religious police raid homes where Christians gather and impose severe penalties for proselytism, forcing clerics and other Christian leaders to travel incognito in order to minister to their flocks. Moreover, non-Muslims are not able to bury their dead in Saudi Arabia, and, the state is also known for supporting Wahhabism throughout the world, making the lives of Christians harder globally. This state sponsored fundamentalist form of Islam preaches a literal translation of the Koran.

Marlin writes, “Saudi Arabia during the last 20 years has spent approximately $85 billion to promote Wahhabism throughout the world. Numerous observers have linked the Saudis’ spread of Wahhabism to the persecution of Christians.” It is well know that Saudi Arabia is the primary financier for the construction of mosques across the United States and throughout the world.

Marlin’s gives voice to the Christians in this unfortunate region who are persecuted for their faith by bringing their experiences and sufferings to the attention of the world. It reveals a reality which might seem foreign and farfetched to some: “Christians are persecuted in the Middle East in a direct manner by this rising tide of Islamic Jihadism. These are people who operate in the absence of reason and instinct drives all their actions. They kill with an unimaginable violence, and they take pleasure in torture, in making others suffer.” It is a tragic and unbelievable reality of our day that Marlin brings to light.

Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy by George J. Marlin is must reading. It is a book drawing attention to the inequities of this era and the hypocrisy of those who preach tolerance without, in fact, acting to establish it. It is a book for those who want to have a complete picture of what the start of the 21st century actually looks like in this part of the world and how much of the world is actually enjoying peace, as well as reevaluate the idea of what Christianity has had to deal with throughout time and what horrendous treatment it still faces.


Georgiana Constantin is a law graduate who has studied International, European and Romanian law at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest and is presently a political science doctoral candidate at the University of Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

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