RFC Chairman: Believers Suffer as Christian Influence Wanes in Middle East
By Bill Fancher and Jenni Parker
(AgapePress) – A religious liberty advocate is worried because the influence of Christians in some parts of the Middle East is on the decline. According to William Murray of the Washington, DC-based Religious Freedom Coalition, this fact makes for a difficult situation for born-again believers and subjects their children to especially bad conditions.
Murray, who currently serves as chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition (RFC), has been involved in the fight for international religious liberty and conservative values for more than 20 years. During the early 1980s he served as director of Freedom’s Friends, a group which reached out to the victims of communism worldwide and for many years has operated evangelistic tours to the Soviet Union for Christians.
Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, Murray foresaw and warned others of a coming “great Islamic Jihad against the secular West.” Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. targets, he has increasingly focused efforts on the Middle East and has traveled to Israel and the West Bank on numerous occasions. From his office in Washington , where he continues to work for the rights of Christians in America and persecuted Christians around the world, Murray guides the RFC in assisting Palestinian Christian families and supporting Christian schools in the West Bank .
Recently, the RFC chairman has expressed concern over the fact that the power and presence of Christians in the Middle East is waning. His organization has noted that Christians are fleeing oppression in Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank in ever-increasing numbers, while those that remain behind under the hostile regime face intimidation, religious repression, and the ongoing threat of violence.
Murray feels the city of Bethlehem is a perfect example of the Church’s diminishing influence in the region. “The birthplace of Jesus Christ is fast becoming a Christian theme park operated by Muslim businessmen,” he says. “Once 85 percent populated by Christians, Bethlehem is now less than 20 percent. There are only 30,000 Christians left in all of Palestinian-controlled areas.”
According to the RFC spokesman, the children of poor Christian families in the area are the ones suffering the most. “The Christian children are being forced to go to schools where they’re forced to learn Koranic verses and memorize things that are intolerable to Christians and things which are also anti-Semitic and anti-American,” he says.
Murray says the Religious Freedom Coalition is currently trying to put together some scholarships for the children of believing poor families in Palestine so the kids can leave the Islamic schools and attend the few Christian schools left in the area.