While the Western media and governments have been preoccupied with the so called “Arab Spring,” little if any attention has been paid to the increased persecution of Christians in the Muslim Middle East.
Throughout the region, Christians have been targeted by Muslim mobs killing innocent bystanders, burning churches, and destroying Christian properties. Interviewed by The National on June 19, 2011, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared that the Arab Spring is posing a threat to Christian minorities throughout the Middle East. He added that “extremists were filling vacuums left by ousting of autocratic regimes,” and “leading to Copts being targeted in Egypt.” In Syria, Archbishop Williams warned, “tensions between Christian communities and Muslim majorities were reaching breaking point.” And, he added that Christians in northern Iraq had been subjected to a form of “ethnic cleansing.” The archbishop made his comments in an interview with BBC radio on August 30, during which he said that even in Bethlehem, Christ’s birthplace, the once-majority Christian population had now become a “marginalized minority.”
The Voice of Russia radio interviewed Egyptian Human Rights activist, Waukee Yakub, and when asked what happened between the Salafi Muslim groups and the Coptic-Christians he replied: “After the revolution of January 25th Salafis came to power. And the only side with which they conflict a lot with is the Coptic Orthodox Christians. They know we are peaceful people and we don’t hurt anyone and they started attacking churches, stop attacking even other Muslim people – the Sufi Muslims that they don’t like. What’s happening now is that it seems like the Military Council that rules the country right now is totally involved with them and constantly agrees them. We have videos and lots of pictures that prove that they do nothing when it comes to attacks on Christians.”
As the interview with the Voice of Russia continued, Yakub added: “The problem is with Salafi fanatics who have al-Qaeda-styled thinking. It’s exactly al-Qaeda thinking: ‘We are rejecting others; we want to kill the Christians; and, we want to make the Christians leave the country.’ I have witnessed an incident in Imbaba, when a house was burning, and furniture was thrown out of the windows, while water quenching vehicles and the police stood there doing nothing. It was happening right in front of them. I’ve seen my own church set on fire and burning like hell and nothing was done. No one was arrested, though we have videos that show faces of the people, who are very well-known.”
The American Coptic Association reported on August 30, 2011 that during an annual meeting in Rimini, Italy, also known as “Meeting for Friendships Among People,” Cardinal Antonios Naguib, patriarch of the Catholic Church in Alexandria, said he was concerned about minorities’ rights after the 25 January, 2011 Egyptian revolution. “Islamists will have great representation in the next parliament, which is normal. We should recognize its political force…but some fear they will assume power and impose an Islamic State.”
A brief regional survey of recent cases of religious persecution of Christians reveals a clear pattern which neither the U.N. nor the European Union has responded to. In Iran, a 32-year old convert to Christianity named Youcef Nadarkhani was sentenced to hang for abandoning Islam for Christianity – a State crime. Nadarkhani has been in jail since October 2010 and has, so far, refused to recant his Christian faith. If he is hung, he would become the first Iranian to be put to death for apostasy since 1990.
Saudi Arabia, an alleged ally of the U.S., forbids any kind of non-Muslim religious ceremony – public or private. If caught with a Bible, violators are sent to prison and then deported. A story in the Washington Times (11/14/05) underscored the religious intolerance of Saudi Arabia when stating that: “A court sentenced a teacher to 40 months in prison and 750 lashes for “mocking religion” after he discussed the Bible and praised Jews, a Saudi newspaper reported yesterday.”
In Iskenderun, Turkey, the personal driver of Bishop Luigi Padovese, head of the Catholic Church in Turkey, was a Muslim named Murat Altun, who repeatedly stabbed and decapitated the Bishop and then proceeded to shout “I killed the great Satan. Allahu Akhbar.” The brutal murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese, on June 3, 2010, shocked the small and hard pressed Christian community in Turkey. The 62 year-old bishop had been spearheading the Vatican’s efforts to improve Muslim-Christian relations in Turkey.
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