Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI lamented "the great challenges facing humankind in our time," particularly noting threats to "religious freedom." Benedict also acknowledged the "two opposite trends, both negative extremes," which bring about religious persecution:
on one side secularism, which often in hidden ways marginalizes religion to confine it to the private sphere; on the other side fundamentalism, which in turn would like to impose itself on all by force.
While the Pope didn't specifically mention persecution against Christians, this reality is particularly egregious in atheist (secular) and Islamic (fundamentalist) nations during the Christmas season. The treatment of minorities continues to be a tell-tale sign of the difference between moderate, Western democracies in the Christian parts of the world and those nations on the extremes mentioned above. The veracity of the Pope's linking of secularism and fundamentalism is well-reflected in the striking similarity and compatibility of communism and militant Islam.
The Pope is performing a global mission similar to that of southern evangelicals in America who raised an alarm about the plight of Christians in Sudan about 10 years ago. Christian persecution goes unmentioned in the American media and among many liberal organizations ostensibly devoted to all human rights violations - political correctness apparently demands that they turn the Christian's other cheek, even when the Christian would prefer otherwise.