Called by a Muslim, several thousand people gathered in Rome last night for a "national demonstration against the exodus and persecution of Christians in the Middle East and for religious freedom in the world" (in the words of the poster). Politicians were not asked to speak, though a good number attended, mostly from the Centre-Right, among them Silvio Berlusconi (who in another place yesterday called Margaret Thatcher "una bella gnocca", which I refuse to translate).
It was Magdi Allam, an Egyptian who calls himself a "secular Muslim" and who is now a senior editor in Italy's premier daily Il Corriere della Sera, who made the original appeal and who was the keynote speaker of the evening. He is scandalised by the Italian state's inadequate efforts to gain the release of Padre Giancarlo Bossi, a missionary kidnapped in the Philipines on the 10th of June and spoke about hostages of the Serie A (journalists) and those of the Serie B (priests).
But the theme was wider than that of hostages and religious intolerance. A more accurate description of the slogan (Salviamo i cristiani) is 'Let's save the Christians'. Yes, that means the Christians of the Middle and Far East, but Allam is concerned most by those he lives among, those in a Europe "weakened by relativism and blinded by the ideology of multi-culturalism [which] betrays its own values and denies its own identity". How does it do this?
It allows a situation in which
ordinary Muslims dare not approach certain mosques because they have been transformed into nests of Islamic extremists; non-practising Muslims go in fear of their lives as do others who convert.
Let's free ourselves from our prejudices, cast off deseased ideologies, overcome the fear that makes us imagine that, just to save our skin, to somehow survive, to escape the cut-throats, we should submit to silence and accept the status of dhimmi and the state of zombies, individuals deprived of their dignity and their liberty. That is why the battle for the freedom of Christians in the Middle East and for religious freedom everywhere is also the battle to reconquer our own dignity and freedom that have sunk low with the spread of the relativism of intellect, values, culture, religion and politics...Before the systematic persecution of and the mass exodus induced or imposed on the Christians of the Middle East, we cannot not say 'We are all Christians'.