“Let Allah be avenged on the polytheist apostate!”
“Allah: empower your religion, make it victorious against the polytheists!”
“Allah, defeat the infidels at the hands of the Muslims!”
Those were the prayers just before the beheading of a Christian convert from Islam in a video released on June 4. The calls to “avenge Allah” that preceded the execution—which reportedly took place in Tunisia—have become commonplace for many Middle Eastern Christians. Radical Islam has quickly spread throughout the region following the ousting of long-standing dictators in the Muslim world’s so-called ‘Arab Spring.’
In Egypt, for example, a leaflet titled, “An Urgent and Important Notice,” was distributed by jihadist organizations on August 14 calling for Muslims to “kill or physically attack the enemies of the religion of Allah—the Christians in all of Egypt’s provinces, the slaves of the Cross, Allah’s curse upon them…” The letter went on to promise a reward to anyone who helps “achieve Allah’s rights against his enemies.”
Not surprising, attacks on the Christian community followed soon after. In the Upper Egypt town of Sohag, four Christian shops were set ablaze and dozens of Christians were severely beaten just days after the leaflets were distributed.
Similar threats are now surfacing in Syria where entire cities have been emptied of Christians while Sunni jihadists, who were fighting alongside al-Qaeda against U.S. forces in Iraq, are returning to fight the regime at home.
“We have experience now fighting the Americans, and more experience now with the Syrian revolution,” said Abu Thuha, an al-Qaeda operative. “Our big hope is to form a Syrian-Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims, and then announce our war against Iran and Israel, and free Palestine.”
In a recently released video on YouTube, masked men that claim to belong to the Free Syrian Army hold AK-47s in front of two al-Qaeda flags. “We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of Allah,” said a speaker in the video. The video is the latest bit of evidence suggesting that al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are hijacking the Syrian revolution and quickly gaining control of the country.
According to Agenzia Fides, the official Vatican news agency, Syria’s Salafis—who follow the radical Wahhabi interpretation of Islam found in Saudi Arabia—is another group carrying out “brief executions” against Christian “infidels” while initiating a “sectarian war.” These Christians are given a choice to either join the opposition or face “harassment, discrimination, [and] violence.
The surmounting threats and routine killings of Christians have persuaded hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee the region. Christians in Syria and Egypt often express their fears by referencing the decline of Christianity in Iraq, where about 50 percent of Iraq’s 1.4 million Christians have fled the country amidst nearly a decade of church bombings, kidnappings, and sectarian murder. Will the faithful in other Middle Eastern countries join Iraq’s mass exodus of Christians? Now, more than ever before, Christians in the Middle East are seeking the prayers and support of the international church during this period of great suffering and uncertainty.