Sure, Al Jazeera is a Muslim outfit, and so will be biased to/promote that religion.
On the other hand, Al Jazeera will publish and discuss anti-Christian persecution on occasion, when Western media flat-out Could Not Care Less.
“Such stories don’t support The Narrative, you see.”
After all, the audience of the Western Mainstream Media — believing and otherwise — is simply uninterested in the cry of the martyrs.
Christian ones, anyways.
Be certain of this: since Al Jazeera has heard the cry of the persecuted Christians when Western groups remain uncaring and dismissive, God — yes, the Trinitarian God that most in Al Jazeera refuse to worship — will be sure to bless and raise up Al Jazeera.
I remember when Al Jazeera was looking to hire folks in Washington, D.C., about the time they launched Al Jazeera English in 2006.
Some journalists about town weren’t sure about applying there, even though the money was said to be good and its connections within the Arabic-speaking world were light years better than any other news operation.
It was, of course, the whiff of Arab nationalism and Islamism that scared a lot of folks off. (Then again, in 2018, it was officially banned from more than one-third of all Arabic-speaking countries, so sometimes those connections exact a high price.)
Anyway, that was then. In 2008, it launched a human-rights desk in its newsrooms and began doing stories where such rights were violated. Being that religious groups were often the first targeted, Al Jazeera got into some serious religion reporting — covering all kinds of issues, often with a striking effort to be balanced, fair and accurate.
Fast forward to 2021, where they just won first place in the Excellence in Television News Magazine Religion Reporting category for the Religion News Writers annual contest. I am not sure what specific story won them that award but in recent years, they’ve done some quality religion pieces. Now they’re at the point where folks are writing academic papers based on their religion coverage.
I am not going to go into their reporting on Islam, which is a whole other topic. This post concerns their human rights-religious minorities coverage. One of their latest examples details how Myanmar has become “a living hell” for Christians — a story very few secular media are covering. Let’s start here:
Last month, Myanmar soldiers gunned down Cung Biak Hum, a 31-year-old Baptist pastor, while he rushed to help put out a fire caused by military shelling. As his town of Thantlang in Myanmar’s northwestern Chin State went up in flames, soldiers sawed off the pastor’s finger and stole his wedding ring.
“The killing of Cung Biak Hum and mutilation of his finger demonstrate the extent of disrespect and brutality with which [Myanmar military] soldiers are conducting themselves in their ongoing war against the people,” Salai Za Uk Ling, deputy director of the Chin Human Rights Organisation, told Al Jazeera.
One doesn’t ordinarily think of northwestern Myanmar as being heavily Christian, in that the country is a Buddhist stronghold. Or if you think of religious persecution, the mostly Muslim Rohingya come to mind.
But the details in this story are so vivid and the facts add up.
The September 19 incident is one of at least 20 cases documented by human rights groups and the media, in which Christian churches, church leaders and volunteers have been targeted or caught in the crossfire of military attacks since a February 1 coup.
The incidents include shelling churches, detaining pastors, and using churches as military bases.
These stats are interesting and, frankly, surprising:
Some 85 percent of the 478,000 residents of Chin State, located on Myanmar’s northwestern border with India, identified as Christian, while in Kayah, which borders Thailand in Myanmar’s southeast, 46 percent of its 286,000 people said they were Christian.
Catholics and Baptists alike are being targeted.
“Churches are now empty and deserted,” said a Catholic church leader in Kayah State who, like several others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity due to concerns of reprisals. “Fear is instilled in the hearts of people. Even churches are not safe from attacks,” he said…
In May, the military justified its attacks on churches in Kayah, including a Catholic church where artillery fire killed four people, by claiming “local rebels” were hiding there, Radio Free Asia reported.
In 2015, two volunteer teachers from the Kachin Baptist Convention were raped and murdered near a military encampment in northern Shan State, in a case which was never brought to justice.
And in 2017, two Baptist leaders were jailed on charges of defamation and supporting the KIO after they took journalists to a church which had been damaged by military airstrikes.
It is surprising how much religion news Al Jazeera has produced, especially about oppressed minorities. A lot of western media shy away from this kind of stuff, making the rest of us rely on activist groups such as persecution.org , persecution.com (Voice of the Martyrs), Open Doors’ World Watch List and WorldWatchMonitor.org, to name a few.
The latter has stories on mass atrocities against Christians in Nigeria; how China’s facial recognition technology affects Chinese Christians who will lose their pensions if they do not replace the crosses in their homes with portraits of President Xi Jingping; how Turkey is quietly picking off Armeniah and Chaldean Christians one by one — all stuff the secular media doesn’t have the time, funds or interest in getting to.
This is not to say Al Jazeera isn’t controversial. They just accepted an award from Hamas for its coverage of Hamas’ conflict with Israel. But here is what needs to be said: very few newsrooms bother to cover the kind of persecution of Christians that BBC called “at near genocide levels.”
Yes, it’s also important to report on the entrapped Muslim Uighurs in western China and the recent increase in violence against Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan. These are the groups that have no real voice unless they’re fortunate to get noticed by the media.
The bottom line: During the many years that I worked in Washington, D.C., oppressed groups would tell me that any, any mention of their situations in my newspaper would be closely watched by that country’s embassy in Washington and sometimes simply shining light on the matter let the folks back home know they were being watched.
There were times I’d spotlight groups (ie Falun Gong followers getting killed in China for their organs) not because the U.S. public cared about them, but to serve notice to their government that someone in Washington knew about them.
So here’s a hat tip to Al Jazeera for covering persecuted groups that so many western media ignore, and giving them a voice.