The Pope recently travelled to Turkey, nothing exciting happened, and the press got bored and turned in early. Many, in the West, in the media, and in the Islamic world, waited for this trip as an opportunity for certain people to kill off or wound the Pope for his words.
"The decisive statement...against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. Theodore Khoury observes...for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with...rationality." Pope Benedict XVI, 12 September 2006 [emphasis mine].
"We have him, and we will kill him. We will cut his throat. We will take revenge for the Pope's words. We will take revenge on all of you. We will kill all the Christians, and we will start with him." Overheard conversation of those who kidnapped and murdered Elder Munthir after he led worship services at the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Mosul on 26 November 2006, two days before the Pope's visit to Turkey.
The Pope wasn't just talking about violence being part of Islam, but about how they convert people to Islam, and conversely how they react when their fellow Muslims convert to Christianity. Remember how several of those kidnapped in Iraq have had to convert to Islam at the point of a gun and to declare so on video so that the whole world can see? And then there's this:
“We are being accused because we are Christians and because we have done missionary work...We don’t use force to tell anyone about Christianity,” Tastan said. “But we are Christians, and if the Lord permits, we will continue to proclaim this.” Hakan Tastan speaking about his and Turan Topal's criminal trial for insulting Turkishness, reviling Islam, and secretly compiling files on private citizens for a Bible correspondence course without the individuals’ knowledge or permission (Articles 301, 216, and 135).
“Unfortunately, in this country, because missionary activities have been made legal, we are not able to intervene. What they are doing is a crime. It is a crime within the scope of the anti-terrorism laws," declared ultranationalist Kemal Kerincsiz, who has been granted permission to intervene in the case, against Tastan and Topal. Said on 23 November 2006, five days before the Pope's visit to his country.
The Pope himself returned home unscathed, and the fuss in the media has disappeared as journalists turned their attention elsewhere. But Christians in much of the world have a new weapon pointed against them because of his words. The fault is not the Pope's. The responsibility lies squarely with those who continue to espouse violence as a way to convert people to Islam and to eradicate the earth of the scourge of Christianity. And while journalists yawn and turn their backs on their stories, the lowly priest, missionary, or Christian in Turkey, Iraq, China, or India, to name just a few places, continues to fear for his or her life yet continue to practice their faith courageously.