lig JOHN LEBKICHER
THE SUDANESE government's seizure of Cath
olic mission schools during April, over the protests of that African nation's bisbops. was not an isolated event.
It was, in fact, only the latest in a long series of blows aimed within recent years by the Moslem-controlled Arab countries of Africa and the Middle East against that area's inure than 6,000,000 Christians, about half of whom are Catholics.
Similar blows against the Church have already begun to spread to non-Arab parts of the Moslem world through the efforts of Mohammedan religious leaders, and there is danger that they will spread still further.
The Communists meanwhile, arc taking full advantage of the situation and doing all they can to intensify Christian-Moslem antagonism wherever members of the two faiths live side by side.
During the past few years the Church has been attacked again and again in many Middle Eastern states. In these countries Catholic Bishops have been jailed and Catholic priests ousted. Inflamed Moslem mobs have damaged and destroyed Catholic schools nr forced them to close. The Catholic press has been suppressed. In some places Catholics are finding it hard or impossible to get jobs.
S0 far, in addition to Sudan, Catholics ha v e suffered most in Egypt, whose government has incited Moslem extremists to attack Christianity and the West, In that country Catholic schools are now forced to provide facilities for teaching the Koran, Islam's holy book, to their Moslem pupils. Christians are facing growing discrimination in both government and private employment. Friday, the Islamic holy day. has been declared a legal holiday, while Sunday has been made a work day contrary to long tradition.
The nation's more than 200,000 Catholics have also been deprived of the right, which had been theirs for more than a thousand years, of appealing to their own courts to decide matters of personal status, such as marriage and inheritance.
Under the old system of personal status courts, a Moslem who wanted to get a divorce would have his case judged by a Mohammedan court according to the extremely liberal Koranic law. The case of a Catholic would be brought before a Church court applying canon law, which forbids divorce.
All such cases are now to be tried before a civil court, which according to the new law will apply the law of the religion to which the litigant belongs. Christians, fear. however, that in practice Moslem law will be applied to non-Moslems.
FOR his protests against the abolition of personal status courts the Egyptian government jailed Archbishop Elias Zoghby, Vicar for Egypt of the Melchite Patriarch of Antioch. Bishop Natal Boucheix, Vicar Apostolic of Heliopolis, was also arrested at the same time.
Because he wrote an article in the Cairo Catholic weekly, Rayon &Egypte, expressing the fears of the Catholic community at these anti-Christian developments, Fr. Robert Chidiac, S.J., was expelled from the country and succeeding issues of the newspaper were confiscated by the government.
The plight of Catholics in other Middle Eastern lands has not been
much better than in Egypt. In Syria, where Communist influence has recently become alarmingly strong, a Moslem mob set fire to a Catholic school and completely destroyed it.
The Knesset (Parliament) in neighbouring Israel has set up two committees to investigate alleged "abuses" in mission schools in that non-Moslem nation.
Pressure has also been brought to bear on Jew ish parents not to send their children to Catholic schools by campaigns in a number of Israeli newspapers, which claim that material advantages are held out as inducements to students who become converts.
The decision to set tip the investigating committees was made at the instigation of Rabbi Ben Jacaacov of the Orthodox Jewish party, Agudat Yisrael, who demanded that parents of children registered in mission schools be brought to trial.
IN Jordan, where civil war or foreign conquest remains a danger, Moslem students invaded a Catholic school and forced it to close down temporarily.
Late last year Jordan's government ousted two Catholic missionary priests, Fathers Marcos Elantoni and Eugene Hoad.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia will not even allow a priest to enter the country.
At the other end of the Arab world, in strife-torn Algeria, a Jesuit periodical, Genres, has expressed the fear that the country's struggle for independence from France may soon turn into a "holy war" between Christians
and Moslems. •
Anti-Christian feeling has always been present to some extent in Moslem-dominated regions. A century ago, for example, some 20.000 Maronite Rite Catholics were massacred by members of a fanatic Moslem sect.
Open persecution of Christians, however. declined during the tatter part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th as European nations—mainly France and Britain— gained increasing influence throughout Moslem territory.
But the rise of Arab nationalism. which has forced the West out of most of the Middle East since the end of World War II, has intensified the old antiChristian feeling of many of the region's people.
This prejudice stems not only from religious bigotry and mis
understanding of the Church's aims in the area, but also from the fact that a large number of its people regard both the Church and Christianity in general as tools of European imperialism.
BOTH these factors are major aids to Mohammedan extremists as they try to extend anti-Christian prejudice beyond the borders of the Arab people to the other parts of Africa and Asia where most of the world's Moslems live.
Although Arab countries in general have a higher percentage of Moslems than other nations, they conta in only about 73,000,000 of the world-wide total of approximately 420.000,000 Moslems.
Non-Arab countries with large Mohammedan populations include Indonesia, 75,000,000; Pakistan, 65.000,000; China, 50,000,000; India, 35,000,000; T u r k e y, 23,000,000; Iran and the Soviet Union, approximately 20,000.000 each, and Afghanistan and Nigeria. about 13,000,000 each. There are also more than 40,000,000 Moslems in the areas of Africa south of the Sahara.
At the present time the major new threats to the Church appear to be coming from the first and last of these areas—Indonesia and Negro Africa.
In Indonesia, where Communist seizure of power also seems to be an imminent danger, powerful Moslem groups are waging a campaign to have Islam declared the nation's official religion.
One of these groups the fanatical Darul Islam, attacked
an Indonesian army post in Celebes during April in its campaign to change that large island's government into a strict Moslem theocracy.
Darul Islam already virtually rules large areas of rural Celebes and Western Java, where the control of the National government is mainly restricted to the cities.
EAST AFRICA IT has become harder and 2
harder over the past few
years to give Indonesia's million Catholics enough missionary priests. In 1953 the Indonesian
government granted 114 entry visas to missionaries. In 1954 the total dropped to 37 and in
1955 to eight. Through the first six months of 1956, latest period for which figures are available, not one entry visa was granted.
Perhaps the most serious menace to Catholicism is growing up in Negro Africa.
Several years ago Premier Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, King Saud of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Mohammed Ali of Pakistan met in Islam's holy city, Mecca, to plan a Moslem missionary invasion of the dark continent. The plans called for graduates of Cairo's 1,000-yearold Al Azhar University to carry Islam's message to African Negro peoples.
At that meeting it is said that Premier Nasser told King Saud that Christian missionaries, "the vanguard of imperialism" should not he allowed to extend their influence anywhere in Africa. Last March Bishop Richard Claire, Vicar Apostolic of Kisongo in the Belgian Congo, indicated that these plans are apparently having some success and reported that Islam is the major threat to the Church in the Congo. Many natives who listen to radio broadcasts from Cairo, he said, have taken up the cry, "White man, go home."
GENERAL Moulaert, honorary vice governor of the Congo, also noted recently that such Moslem propaganda is giving important aid to Communist activities Islam is also growing in East Africa, where it has been established for many centuries, especially along the routes followed by Arab slave traders.
Church authorities in Kenya, scene of the Mau-Mau uprising, and Tanganyika have expressed alarm at the strides Moslems are making in those two territories.
To the south, in Portuguese East Africa, the Church has been building more schools in an attempt to halt Islam's advance.
A member of its hierarchy, Bishop Manoel de Medeiros Guerreiro of Nampula, has warned that the easy morality of Moslems in regard to polygamy and divorce is helping them make inroads even on the Catholic population.
Across the continent, in Frenchcontrolled territories and Nigeria, Moslems have also stepped up their efforts.
In French West Africa. which already contains some 9.000,000 Moslems, the Mohammedan population is growing by an estimated 200,000 a year as a result of the campaign being waged by Islamic leaders.