ICC Note: Persecution for Christians in the Middle East is nothing new, but looking across the region today the church is under attack in nearly every country. The rise of Islamic extremism has driven a militancy that often violently targets Christians in its attempt to create an “Islamic State” or at least countries where Islam is in power. Whether they are driven out entirely – like Iraq – or through fear and kidnapping forced to the edges – like in Egypt – many Christians are facing very real threats for their identity as followers of Jesus.
09/29/2014 Middle East (Washington Times) – Since the 11th century crusade, Christians in the Middle East have been an endangered species. Their plight has never been worse than it is today.
In times of antiquity, Arab and Jewish Christians were at least protected against Muslim hostilities as “people of the book.” Today, in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, Christians of all denominations are being hunted, tortured and killed by Muslim radicals as an unwanted and undesirable minority. Wherever the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda or other extremist groups prosper by virtue of the absence of a strong government (and internal security force), Christians suffer deprivation, death and different forms of oppression and discrimination.
In Egypt, Coptic Christians were treated relatively well historically. When Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in 2011, the Arab Spring became the Arab Winter for non-Muslims. Untold numbers of Christians were killed, numerous churches were looted and burned, and many had to either emigrate to the West or leave the areas where their family had lived for centuries.
In Syria, where the regime was traditionally nonsectarian and Christians generally shared in the prevailing pattern of privilege allocation, the civil war provided an excuse for the world to turn a blind eye as Islamic terrorists descended on Syria from numerous Muslim countries. Christians began to suffer discrimination followed by persecution at the hands of the “freedom fighters” whose only interest was an absolute Islamic state. In areas controlled by Muslim extremists, Christians have to pay “khuwwa” (a special tax), convert to Islam, move or die. Churches are destroyed, looted and burned. Nuns and priests have been kidnapped or killed. Some of the oldest monasteries in Christendom have been destroyed. A leading politician in Lebanon recently told me, “If these terrorists prevail in Syria, there will be no Christians left in Syria or Lebanon.” Not in defense of the many faults of the Assad regime, but for the sake of the plight of Christendom in the region, Americans should hope this warning does not fall on deaf ears in Washington.