With Attacks On Christians, 2013 Ends On A Bad Note For Freedom And Democracy

Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune sees 2013 as a bad year for democracy and freedom that was marked by increasing violence in Egypt and Libya, dictatorial rule in Zimbabwe and Russia, and the death of Nelson Mandela.

Perhaps the most glaring example of the threat to pluralism and democracy was seen this week in the Middle East when radical Islamists attacked Christian services on Christmas morning. The impact of such events reaches beyond just the Christian community however.

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson contends that “even limited levers — stronger condemnation of abuses, conditioning aid on the protection of minorities, supporting moderate forces in the region — are worth employing” in the effort to spread democracy to the region. He says, however, that it should not be viewed as a signal that democracy cannot survive in the Middle East.

“The growth of [Christian] persecution is sometimes used as a club against the very idea of democracy promotion. Middle East democracy, the argument goes, often results in oppressive Sunni religious ascendency. Majority rule will bring the harsh imposition of the majority faith. But this is the criticism of a caricature. Democracy promotion — as embraced by the National Democratic Institute or the International Republican Institute or Freedom House — is about human liberty protected by democratic institutions.

“Securing institutional respect for minority rights is particularly difficult in transitioning societies, as we’ve recently seen. But clinging to authoritarianism further hollows out civil society, making the results even more chaotic and dangerous when a dictator falls. And even marginally more favorable dictators can’t be propped up forever, as we’ve also recently witnessed. So it matters greatly whether America and other democracies can help pluralism survive and shape the emerging political order.”

Gerson’s argument that enabling Christianity to survive is key to democracy in the Middle East was echoed in an article earlier this month in London’s Daily Telegraph.

Louis Raphael Sako contends the “loss of Christianity would fundamentally alter the contours of culture and society in nations such as Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. It would deal a severe blow to any hope of pluralism and democracy.”

One of the stumbling blocks to rescuing Christianity is that “many Muslims do not know the history of Christians in the religious and intellectual formation of Islamic civilization, or the value of Christianity to stable democracy. It is vital that these factors become better known, and their significance to Islam better understood.”

He also offers criticism of Muslims who stand by and allow the violence to continue.

“It is also critical that Muslims not only reject violence against Christians, but actually to promote civil harmony and religious freedom in their  societies. Most Muslims are good and not violent. They do not agree with the extremists but they are also afraid to act publicly. They must do so.

Democracy At Risk In Dominican Republic
In the Dominican Republican, however, Roger F. Noriega expresses his belief that democracy is at risk in what he sees as “a pattern of cynical, partisan actions that threaten the rule of law and economic growth in that nation.”

In particular, Noriega is concerned about the government’s decision to retroactively apply a 2010 constitutional amendment that redefined citizenship rights, which essentially revoked the citizenship of as many as 350,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent.

“Haitian Dominicans are not the only citizens paying a price for systematic corruption. Perhaps the current international scandal generated by the Supreme Court’s careless ruling will spur the nation’s political class and civil society to agree on an urgent overhaul of its judicial and electoral institutions. Only then will the Dominican Republic return to being a good neighbor and productive partner for both the region and the United States,” says Noriega, who was ambassador to the Organization of American States during the Bush administration.




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