In Syria and Iraq, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of Christian places of worship that Islamic fundamentalists have destroyed and desecrated. Those images have shocked and moved global public opinion, together with mass beheadings, the burnings of “infidels,” and rape of young girls. Churches, cemeteries and archaeological sites, bearing the symbols of the Christian faith (crosses, statues, icons), were razed to the ground. The non-Islamic tradition of Mosul, for example, does not exist anymore.
But another vandalism, more “pacific” but no less dramatic, is taking place in the heart of Europe, where many great churches of Christendom, Catholic and Protestant, have been transformed into luxury apartments to satisfy the appetites of businessmen, often foreign, looking for something “special.” Sic transit gloria mundi.
According with a recent Pew Forum report, “largely due to low fertility rates across the continent, Europe is the only region of the world where the overall population is projected to decline in total number (by almost 50 million) between 2010 and 2050. The number of Christians in Europe is forecast to drop by about 100 million, from about 553 million to 454 million.” People have already guessed what’s going on, despite the lies of the media, the élite and the opinion makers: Europe as we know it is disappearing under the weight of falling birth rates, de-Christianization and Muslim proliferation. The great Medieval churches were built to assert pride, and conversely, the sight of an abandoned church or in ruins today sends a strong message. A world is being eclipsed.
The Pew Forum revealed that Islam will become the world’s largest religion, surpassing Christianity. Look at Europe’s abandoned churches and you will have the answer to the question: how did we reach this decadence?
France, the nation that launched the great millennium of medieval Christianity, which crowned Charlemagne emperor in 800, the France of churches inserted between vineyards and cornfields, la Douce France, the France of beautiful castles, abbeys and cathedrals, is in the grip of a terrible abyss, dramatically exemplified by demographic and religious change.
Since 1980, the Church of England has closed 1,074 churches, seven percent of the total. Some have become carpet warehouses, restaurants or entertainment venues. Of 900 Methodist chapels in Cornwall, only 250 are still functioning; others have become homes.
Germany, the country that gave birth to Pope Benedict XVI, where President Gauck was a Protestant minister and Chancellor Angela Merkel is the daughter of a pastor, a country whose sacred music is the best in the world, where churches constitute the second-largest employer, has emerged as the battering ram of Western secularism.
Lutheran Bishop Jobst Schoene said that Christianity in Europe could meet the same tragic fate of Christianity in North Africa. In Roman times, at the end of the seventh century, the lands that today comprise Algeria and Tunisia, for example, were entirely Christian, and home to champions of the Christian faith such as Tertullian and Augustine. Two centuries later, Christianity was extinguished, replaced by the Arab-Islamic civilization.
I fear the same fate will be meet by Europe. Because as the late great French anthropologist René Girard said, “Islam is infinitely stronger than what remains of Christianity.”
Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author. He is the author of three books: A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism (Encounter Books); J’Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel (Mantua Books), and La fine dell’Europa, about the Christian and demographic decline in Europe. He is a columnist at Arutz Sheva and his writings have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, FrontPage, Commentary, and The Geller Report.