Easter is upon us, a time when Christians fill up on chocolate, pray and peacefully contemplate. (And not whip up stupid, faux rows over Easter eggs as the Archbishop of York, the prime minister, and even Corbyn did recently when they accused Cadburys and the National Trust of expurgating Easter from their websites and adverts.)
Those of other faiths and no faith need to reflect too on this worldwide religion, its meanings and messages, and, most importantly, the terrible agonies of believers in non-Christian countries. Most suffer in silence because they are a vulnerable minority. But we who live in secure and free nations have no such excuse. So why don't we defend these victims?
Because some of the most powerful nations and individuals in the world are Christian and a good many of them are arrogant and hostile to those they see as the Other. I mean Trump, Theresa May (daughter of a vicar), the prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orban, Vladimir Putin, many others. Because of these leaders, millions of world citizens believe Christianity is overprivileged and globally dominant.
Secondly, over the last few decades, the most potent international narrative has been that of Islamophobia, of Muslims discriminated against and victimised in Western lands and in their own birthplaces. These are undeniable truths but not the only truths.
When Trump initiated overtly anti-Muslim regulations, there was rightly uproar in the West, East, south and north. When Christians in the USA burn down old mosques, attack anybody they think is a 'Moslem' again, millions of right-minded people object, mobilise, and come out to protect the human rights of Muslims. But when Christians are humiliated, hounded, beaten, tortured and killed by non-Christians in various countries, there is no such outrage or mobilisation.
Sorry, but not being able to travel to the US doesn't to me sound as much of a gross injustice as the rape and torture of Christian females, in say, Nigeria, Pakistan and India. Just four days ago, on Palm Sunday, over 47 worshippers were killed by bomb attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt. Isis claimed responsibility. Imagine such a terrible attack on Regent's Park mosque. Imagine too the protests and fury that would generate. Are Christians not people? Do they not bleed?
Most popular: Can women really have 100 orgasms in a row?
In the published list of the nations where Christians are persecuted, North Korea comes top, followed by Somalia. Somalia, so very many of whose citizens live freely and happily in Christian lands. Numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 are, respectively, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran. Nigeria is number 12. Thousands of Christians have been slaughtered there by fanatic Muslims. Saudi Arabia where there is no freedom of religion, is number 14.
Multi-ethnic India, number 15, up from 31. In this economic powerhouse, pastors are daily beaten, churches burnt down, women abducted and congregations forced to convert to Hinduism.
Pakistan has become a lethal place for anyone who does not practice Sunni Islam. Christians are treated worse than dogs. Here is one tragic example. Sana, a Pakistani Christian, now an asylum seeker in the UK, wrote to me recently. I have checked out her story. She met Mo, a Pakistani Muslim at university in London. They were here on student visas. They fell in love, married secretly, and then went back home when she was six months pregnant.
Her family accepted Mo, but her in-laws rejected her and her baby. She converted to make life easier and moved into the big, old family mansion. There she was beaten, starved, abused, made to sleep on straw in an outhouse because they still saw her as an accursed infidel. She had a breakdown and was sent to England, to relatives. The in-laws kept her son. Her ex has remarried. Five years on, she has grown old and bitter: 'Pakistani Muslims demand equality and rights from everyone and will not give the same to minorities. They are hypocrites and thugs. They stole my life, my child, even changed his name?'
Christians face persecution in the Palestinian territories, even though some of the most effective campaigners for a homeland are and were Christian; Hanan Ashrawi and Edward Said, for example. Across the Middle East, where Christianity was born, the faithful are being driven out. Or assaulted, degraded, enslaved or executed. This was happening long before al-Qaeda or Isis. Refugee camps and perilous boats filled with migrants contain broken, frightened Christians. Check out the charity Open Doors UK to get a sense of the extent and nature of appalling anti-Christian hatreds.
As a Muslim, I feel ashamed that so few of us Muslims speak up for these Christians. As a liberal my shame gets quite purple, for those in my camp wilfully deny the experiences of these victims or decide they don't matter.
Unless we include this oppression in our long list of unacceptable oppressions we are not worthy of calling ourselves Muslim, liberal or even human.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a journalist, columnist, broadcaster and author. Follow @y_alibhai
You may be interested in:
- Trump's missile strike on Assad is satisfying – but he's an erratic man in a volatile world
- Our children aren't taught the ugly truth about the British Empire - it's time for them to learn
- Where is our solidarity with the world's Muslims who face Islamist terrorism every single day?
- As a Muslim, I'm ashamed so few of us speak up against the persecution of Christians