Nina Shea

About that Mike Pence speech: Are solid facts available on global persecution of Christians?

About that Mike Pence speech: Are solid facts available on global persecution of Christians?

From time to time, your GetReligionistas pause to remind readers that they should not blame reporters for the headlines that appear with their stories.

Sad, but true: There is nothing unusual about seeing a solid news report that gets messed up, for readers, by an inaccurate or misleading headline.

But what should we say when a story has a solid, focused headline, but the story's actual contents leave much to be desired?

Consider the Washington Post report about the speech last week by Vice President Mike Pence at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians. I have no problems with the simple headline here: "Pence: America will prioritize protecting Christians abroad."

The key word is "abroad." And the top of the story -- obviously the source of the headline -- gets straight to some of the basics.

Vice President Pence sought on Thursday to reassure Christian leaders looking for the White House to focus more on the plight of persecuted Christians abroad.
“Protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Trump administration,” the vice president said during a morning address at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians being held this week in Washington. Pence spoke to an audience who are grateful for the Trump administration’s statements of support for that cause but who are starting to question when the administration will take more concrete action.
Advocacy on behalf of people persecuted for being Christian is a topic “of enormous importance to this administration,” Pence said. Turning to speakers at the conference who were there to share their personal stories of persecution abroad, he said: “You have the prayers of the president of the United States. The suffering of Christians in the Middle East has stirred Americans to action, and it brings me here today.”

So far, so good. But if you read the rest of this story its pretty apparent that the Post team thinks that the American political angles in this story are way more important than the evidence that lots of Christians are dying around the world.

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Immigration EO, round 2: Maybe Christians merely 'claim' to be persecuted by Islamic State?

Immigration EO, round 2: Maybe Christians merely 'claim' to be persecuted by Islamic State?

Does anyone out there in news-consumer land remember the 21 Coptic Christian martyrs of Libya who were slaughtered on a beach in that Islamic State video? As Pope Francis noted, many of them died with these words on their lips: "Jesus help me."

Remember the reports of Christians -- along with Yazidis and other religious minorities -- being raped, gunned down, hauled off into sexual servitude or in some cases crucified?

Surely you do. These hellish events did receive some coverage from major American newsrooms.

The persecution of religious minorities -- Christians, Yazidis, Alawites, Baha'is, Jews, Druze and Shia Muslims -- played a role, of course, in the #MuslimBan media blitz that followed the rushed release of President Donald Trump's first executive order creating a temporary ban on most refugees from lands racked by conflicts with radicalized forms of Islam.

So now journalists are dissecting the administration's second executive order on this topic, which tried to clean up some of the wreckage from that first train wreck. How did elite journalists deal with the religious persecution angle this time around?

Trigger warning: Readers who care about issues of religious persecution should sit down and take several deep breaths before reading this USA Today passage on changes in the second EO:

Nationals of the six countries with legal permanent residence in the U.S. (known as green card holders) are not affected. People with valid visas as of Monday also are exempt. And the order no longer gives immigration preference to "religious minorities," such as Christians who claim they are persecuted in mostly Muslim countries.

The key word there, of course, is "claim."

You see, we don't actually have any evidence -- in videos, photos or reports from religious organizations and human-rights groups -- that Christians and believers in other religious minorities are actually being persecuted. Christians simply "claim" that this is the case.

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Slashing at freedom: New York Times Magazine targets attacks on Bangladesh 'freethinkers'

Slashing at freedom: New York Times Magazine targets attacks on Bangladesh 'freethinkers'

While liberals carp about the religious right allegedly chipping away at freedom in America, some Muslim extremists are hacking away -- literally -- at dissenters. So it's a grimly welcome surprise when the New York Times, the Gray Lady of liberalism, spotlights jihadi atrocities in Bangladesh.

The massive magazine feature, nearly 5,300 words strong, tells of the "freethinker" movement of secularist bloggers who have been stabbed and slashed by extremists in that south Asian land. In particular, the story centers on Asif Mohiuddin, a secular atheist journalist who fled to Germany after being stabbed several times.

And he's just one of more than a half-dozen victims, most murdered, some mangled. The attacks have leaked into western media for years, but retelling them in a single story carries its own visceral punch. The bottom line: It's good to see coverage of the rights of religious liberals, agnostics and atheists in troubled lands.

Some examples:

* Ahmed Rajib Haider was stalked by a five-man team, who "studied his movements over a period of days" and even played cricket outside his home. When he ventured out alone at night, the men pulled machetes and killed him.

* Avijit Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, were attacked after a book fair. Two men with machetes "struck him three times on the head, penetrating his brain and killing him. His wife lost a thumb trying to protect him."

* "Weeks after Roy’s killing, two men armed with meat cleavers struck down the satirical blogger Rhaman."

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Pod people: Deja vu on global persecution of Christians

As a rule, I don’t discuss the contents of one of my new Scripps Howard News Service columns here at GetReligion. However, from time to time I need to do so in order to describe some of the content of a new podcast in our GetReligion “Crossroads” series with radio host Todd Wilken & Co.

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