The media often gets it wrong when covering (or not) the global persecution of Christians, but this reveals our religious blind spots rather than a conspiracy of silence, writes Natasha Moore in The Drum/ABC.
A minority group has their homes painted with an ominous symbol. They are told to leave or be killed; their belongings are confiscated at outgoing checkpoints; they are raped or shot even as they try to flee. Ancient cultural sites are blown up. Those who object, even those belonging to the majority group, face harassment and even execution.
Does it matter who the group is? Waleed Aly, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald last week, argued that it does - that some deaths (and therefore lives) matter more to us than others.
The particular minority group I am referring are the Christians of northern Iraq. For the first time in perhaps 1,600 years, no Christian service has been held in Mosul in recent weeks. Observers believe no Christians now remain in Iraq's second-largest city after the Islamic State militants controlling the city gave them an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay an (unaffordable) tax, or face death. (The tax option was later revoked.) Terrible stories of brutal persecution are filtering through.
The plight of Mosul's Christians has been noted by a growing number of news outlets, from The Independent to The New York Times. It has broken the surface of the international news cycle in a way that other atrocities - the fire-bombing of churches in Nigeria, the summary execution of North Koreans caught with Bibles - have not. It has, perhaps, begun to make more visible one of the most shocking untold stories of our time: the global persecution of Christians.
Christians are persecuted in 139 nations around the world; it is estimated that up to four out of five acts of religious discrimination worldwide are directed against them. Countries that were previously moderate or avowedly secular have stepped up their hostility to Christians, such as Turkey, where over the last century the Christian presence has dwindled from 32% of the population to a tiny minority of 0.15 per cent.
The Copts in Egypt, who have been continually present almost since the founding of Christianity, have long endured severe social, political and economic discrimination and in the wake of the Arab Spring have increasingly been the victims of mob violence, forced removals and the abduction of their girls and women who are then made to marry Muslim men.
Once you scratch the surface, it isn't difficult to multiply examples, whether in communist, post-communist, Muslim or South Asian countries. Yet so few of these stories filter through to the "Christian" West.
FULL STORY Why don't we hear about persecuted Christians? (ABC)