Editor’s note: This story contains a graphic image of a Christian crucified by ISIS. Reader discretion is advised.
Belgium is as chock-full of martyrs as the rest of Europe. Most are long dead, but their images grace thousands of paintings, serene and contemplative in the midst of dismemberment or horrific torture. Christian martyrs loan their names to Europe’s cathedrals, colleges and cities: St. Petersburg, San Santorini, Saint Denis -San Sebastián. They stand before marble scaffolds and are rent by bronze lions. No one pays them much mind.
Saint Dymphna traveled from Ireland to Belgium in 649 A.D. for religious freedom. She was fleeing a pagan Irish king who demanded she marry him. Dymphna had a few problems with that: she had converted to Christianity and taken a vow of chastity … and he was her own father. Demented daddy, who had problems with her chastity and her God, beheaded his daughter. Father Gerebernus, who aided her, was martyred as well.
If this sounds strangely familiar, it should.
Whether Dymphna’s legend is entirely factual or not, we know one thing is true: millions of Christians chose to forfeit their lives rather than renounce their faith. No one can deny it. Boko Haram stacks up bodies of church youth like cord wood. ISIS and Taliban document Christian persecution for as long as digital video shall last.
Artists are still commemorating martyrs as well, but few of the victims are Christian and even fewer are “martyrs” as we understand the term. Continuing a campaign of cultural ambiguity and deconstruction, current exhibits may “explore,” “confront,” “mediate,” “allude to,” or “question” murder. But it is never admitted, never denounced. We’re too sophisticated for that now.
About 500 miles from where the remains of St. Dymphna lie, a controversial art exhibit runs in Copenhagen from May 26 to June 10. Sponsored by collective “The Other Eye of the Tiger” (TOETT), they are a group of performance artists. The “Museum of Martyrs” is fashioned after the original in Tehran and suitably held in an old slaughterhouse in the dandified Meatpacking District.
And like their namesake, actual martyrs weren’t invited. (Perhaps to deflect criticism, Joan of Arc makes a token appearance, as the only Christian who was persecuted for her faith.)
Muslim terrorists are the real stars of this exhibit, in spite of organizer Ida Grarup Nielsen’s insistence they are artworks “of persons who died for certain causes.” Coming only a few months after the bloodshed in Paris and Brussels, the artists clearly honor the attackers of their neighbors, in spite of appeals to diversity and moral leveling: “Our exhibition is really about describing the term ‘martyr’ from as many different angles as possible and through history.”
Brussels suicide bomber/brothers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui are featured, and not as merely deranged persons. They have photos on pedestals and other terror memorabilia. Maybe they’ll open a souvenir stand. Paris butcher Foued Mohamed-Aggad rates a “guided tour of events at the Bataclan” with PTSD-inducing sounds and lights. Nielsen informed the media the story will be enacted “more from his point of view.” Obviously.
Hardcore Muslims celebrate these attacks, so why should we be asked to mourn their inversion of “martyrdom”? They’re busy passing around cigars and rolls of Euros (from Norway and other admirers). It’s the 21st century. Your sister could be blown up last week and you just climb onto the diversity bandwagon and hold on. This week we’re taking the kids to the museum.
Not one Christian marked for destruction in Iraq or Syria was featured in the show, and they have thousands to choose from. Father Al-Bazi of Syria claims 80 percent of ISIS’ “efforts are against us” (Christians). No orange jumpsuits, severed heads or girls raped to death. Feckless artists couldn’t have been more honed to Muslim sensitivities or more thoughtless of their victims. Welcome to the New Martyrs, first suggested by radical Muslims and lovingly carried into the world by the willing and able.
TOETT claims we have a common “fascination with heroic people” – assuming the world shares their values. Clearly, little Copenhagen Rose and her crew wouldn’t recognize a “heroic person” if they were buried alive beneath one. Further rationalizing came via the magic academic tools of “contextualizing” and East vs. West incantations. Nielsen claims that what we call “terrorists” in the West are considered “martyrs” by others in the world. This has nothing to do with being Christian or Jewish or anything like that.
Across Europe and in Denmark, many were not amused, and that is the real story. “Museum of Martyrs” would have passed without a blip as just another leftist freakshow if the memories weren’t so fresh and raw. TOETT exhibit rubs salt in Europe’s wounds. Danish culture Minister Bertel Haarder called the artists “insane,” but not for the same reasons many of us may. Instead, he was “outraged” that they compared Rosa Luxemburg, “an honorable socialist,” to “suicide bombers and terrorists.”
Alex Arendtsen of the Danish People’s Party was infuriated as well. “Christian martyrs do not kill anyone,” he insisted to Politiken. “It is not a martyr museum, but a murderer museum they are making.” Arendtsen noted the “ignorance and lack of unintelligence” of some artists and intellectuals who swallow Islamic propaganda.
Replicas of terror accessories are included in “Museum of Martyrs,” such as Ibrahim el-Bakraoui’s black leather glove, which concealed a bomb detonator. This comes close to veneration – or at least fascination and admiration. Fingers of saints and martyrs in jeweled reliquaries as the observant file past.
No survivors of Islamic terror have weighed in on this, that I am aware of. But it seems to be a post-mortem act of aggression against Christians and other terror victims. TOETT is a secular collective seeking publicity and notoriety at any cost. By norming terror, violence and martyrdom, they lose their significance and moral association.
Neilsen defends their show with a narcissistic tirade that everyone is “the hero of [their] own story.” Maybe in your universe, honey, where you have the empathy of rocks.
Meanwhile, America’s St. Dymphna shrine in a 140-year-old Ohio church was destroyed by fire last August (2015). By December, authorities had still not determined the cause of the blaze. St. Dymphna is the patroness against insanity. I am no Catholic, but it’s enough to make one wonder.