June 20, 2011

OTTAWA — Christian social conservatives and gays often find themselves on opposite sides in the culture wars, but when it comes to persecution of minorities abroad they can find common cause.

The same countries that persecute Christians and other religious minorities, also persecute gays and lesbians, trample on women's rights and stifle dissent, said immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges.

Desloges moderated a panel here June 10 on Persecuted Minorities living under Tyranny, sponsored by the Free Thinking Film Society.

Yet the persecution of religious and sexual minorities is underreported and human rights agencies pay little attention said members of the panel.

Bruce Bawer, an American gay author living in Oslo, Norway, said religious minorities "stand a chance of surviving" if they submit to Muslim society.

But the treatment of homosexuals in the Middle East by Muslims make Christian conservatives like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson look like models of tolerance, he said.

Homosexuality carries a death penalty in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran and severe sanctions in other Muslim countries, Bawer said.

Yet many homosexuals are never arrested or arraigned. Instead, they are beaten, executed, disowned or subjected to honour killings by their own family members, he said.

Despite documentation of the execution of thousands of gays in Iran and other instances of the widespread persecution of gays, Western liberals, including most gay rights organizations, are silent, he said.

Peter Stockland, a Catholic and former journalist, said religious persecution forces people to lie about themselves as well as about their most profound beliefs about God.

While instances of murder and violence do get some news attention, the media ignore acts of legal persecution that constantly harass Christian believers, Stockland said.

Iran recently charged 11 people with illegally consuming alcohol after they participated in a communion service. Christians can be charged for reading a Bible or for "proselytizing" if they speak too emphatically to a Muslim neighbour, he said.

"There has been a tremendous failure of the Western media to pay attention," he said. He laid some of the blame on "the amount of hostility in the way Christians are regarded" in Western newsrooms.


Benjamin Weinthal, a journalist and research fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, blamed the lack of coverage of persecution of either gays or religious minorities on a "soggy appeasement policy" in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Human rights NGOs are neglecting the persecution of gays and religious minorities, yet are "pathologically obsessed with Israel," Weinthal said.

An Israeli psychologist once said the Germans would never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz, Weinthal said.

The response to the Shoah triggers a new wave of anti-Semitism, he said. You can't be anti-Semitic in the old way, so the "tsunami of modern anti-Semitism" is against Israel.