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Europe has not been the centre of world Christianity for many decades now. Today the centre resides somewhere in the Americas or Sub-Saharan Africa. What is more, some 60% (some say 80%) of the 2.4 billion Christians worldwide are not Westerners, nor are they male.
Today, there are more than twice as many Catholics in Brazil as there are in Italy, more than twice as many Protestants in Nigeria as there are in Germany and more Christians in Indonesia than in all the 20 countries of Middle East/North Africa region where Christianity began. Not that Australians and the Australian media understand this appreciate this.
Perhaps there is none so startling a blind spot than that of religious persecution. Despite what is normally portrayed, Christians are persecuted more than any other religion. Across more than 130 nations up to 80% of all religious discrimination is directed against Christians.
Over the past 12 months Mosul in Iraq has been ransacked by ISIS with churches destroyed. Sunday church services have not been held for the first time in over 1600 years. While this is only one incident among hundreds, it illustrates a rising trend in persecution; but you would never have understood this from the media coverage. Even in previously moderate countries such as Turkey and Egypt it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christians. Persecution in these countries continues largely unreported.
In their book, Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion, editors Marshall, Gilbert and Ahmanson explore how Western media frequently misunderstands or misconstrues just about every story about religion not only in everyday life, but also in science, in politics and in world affairs. This is not, they suggest, out of contempt but incomprehension.
If they are correct, religion and Christianity will be increasingly misunderstood and misinterpreted in and across our media. When Barney Zwartz retired from The Age at the end of 2013 he was the last full-time religion editor of a major newspaper in Australian. It is not surprising he remarked, “I fear for the future,” because religious “stories will mostly be written by people with no background and little understanding.”
Stephen L Baxter
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