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Special Report

Christians Under Persecution Overseas

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 18, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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DAVID ALTON, BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY MEMBER: What we're seeing is a systematic attempt to asphyxiate Christianity in the very place in which it sprang in the Middle East.

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SHANNON BREAM, GUEST HOST: That was Lord David Alton; he’s a Catholic member of the British parliament of the House of Lords talking about the devastating attacks we've seen in the Middle East on Christians. Let's talk with our panel about it. Juan, Gregg Burke pointed out in his reporting from Rome that a lot of people don't know about what’s happening. Do you think there has been adequate coverage of this?  

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No. It's interesting; I don't think the Vatican has done enough to wave the flag. You think they would take the lead on this.  No there hasn't been enough attention. And in fact much of the attention has been directed in an interesting manner towards persecution of moderate Muslims and the fact of extremist Muslims tend to get all the attention and dominate. People say where are the moderate Muslims?  Stop for a second and think what’s happened in Egypt or the other attacks that the Christian minority is being persecuted, and it's not too strong a term.

BREAM: We have seen devastating attacks in Baghdad and Alexandria in Egypt, many other countries. Steve, do you think there is a double standard when it comes to reporting this or the level of outrage when we are talking about Christians as the targeted minority?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: There is no question there’s double standard, and I think international community and the United Nations isn't motivated to make this a signature issue.

Look, I think what you're seeing happening in the Middle East now, I'm not sure I would call it systematic asphyxiation of Christians, but certainly this has been going on for a good number of years. The problem is Islamist regimes and Islamist governments won't take a stand against persecution of Christians because in part they agree with what’s happening, and secular governments in the region are afraid to take a stand against the persecution of Christians because they don't want to rile the Islamist elements in their own countries. So nobody says anything in the region and the international community shrugs its shoulders.

BREAM: We saw the situation in Pakistan where a woman was sentenced to death because of what she said about the Islamic faith. Then the governor who pardoned her was assassinated. Charles, if we call on moderate Muslims to help in this situation, are they risking their own lives? 

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: They are. What’s happening is a rising tide of radical Islam which is extraordinarily intolerant. And the worst part of the story of the governor of Punjab who was assassinated was that his assassin has now become a folk hero, including he was praised by an association of Muslim lawyers in Pakistan. You would expect that to be most westernized, most secular, tolerant element of society. They hailed him as a hero.  This is in Pakistan, a country which began its life as a secular country, a part of British India. It's not with a country with a long history of radicalism. And it tells you how deep it is.  It's not a systematic attack on Christians. It's the result of the rise of this strain wherever it appears in Nigeria, we've seen in northern Nigeria and Egypt and Iraq, and elsewhere having these spectacular attacks.  But there has been a longer, less spectacular pressure on Christians. The number of Christians in Lebanon dwindled radically in the last 50 years as a result of the attacks on them by their neighbors. This is not new.  But now I think the attackers are more spectacular and bold and sort of unabashed in attacking Christians. But I think it's the end of a long development. And it’s an internal problem in Islam.  It has nothing to do with what America does or what the west has done in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's an intrinsic issue. It’s about the Muslims, and it will require a solution from Muslims of goodwill and moderation. We're waiting for them to step up and oppose this.

BREAM: Juan, Lord Alton that we heard from, he did suggest that he thought in some way it was a lash back at the west.  If you can go after America directly, go after Christians. Is there a role for the U.S. in this situation, or would it be overstepping in any way to get involved?

WILLIAMS: I'm not sure. Clearly we have an interest, a Christian majority here in the United States. I think we have tremendous concern about human rights issues in general. So under the claim of being interested in human rights, I think we could certainly say this is wrong.

Now I think what we're seeing here is something that I think Dr. King referred to as feeding the people the bread of hate. I think a lot of governments don't necessarily have any hatred directed toward Christians themselves, but they see in the Islamic extremist community if they let it happen then they somehow feel they are winning points with the extremists in their nations.  And I think that’s the problem here. It's weakness on the part of the governments. We've seen a little bit of the weakness signified by what happened in Tunisia this week.

BREAM: Very quickly, does that equate to condoning it?

HAYES: Yes, I think we actually do agree, shockingly enough. I think Juan is right. I think that’s the problem. These secular governments, moderate governments don't want to stand up and speak out because they are afraid of what’s going to happen with the Islamists.

KRAUTHAMMER: Steve, if you agree with Juan, you ought to reconsider.

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