by Kelly James Clark
In early November, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Christianity is “the most persecuted religion in the world.” Although met with predictable criticism, Rupert Short’s recent research report for Civitas UK confirms Merkel’s claim — we may not want to hear it, but Christianity is in peril, like no other religion. While this is a contest no one wants to win, Short shows that “Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.” Short is the author of the recently published Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack. He is concerned that “200 million Christians (10 percent of the global total) are socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
Christianity is facing elimination in its Biblical homeland. Between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have departed or been killed over the past century. Short attributes the intolerance and violence towards Christians to the rising Islamicization of Middle Eastern countries. Some of the oppression is government sanctioned and some government permitted; most is government ignored.
Short looks at the plight of Christians in the Middle East, country by country. When it comes to religious oppression, the devil, one might say, is in the details.
In the Salafist website, ‘Guardians of the Faith’, you can read that Muslims are superior to Egypt’s Coptic Christians because “Being a Muslim girl whose role models are the wives of the Prophet, who were required to wear the hijab, is better than being a Christian girl, whose role models are whores” and “Being a Muslim who fights to defend his honor and his faith is better than being a Christian who steals, rapes, and kills children.” Little wonder, then, that radical Muslims unleashed their fury on Christians in 2010, murdering 13 worshippers as they emerged from a service and later bombing a church in Alexandria which killed 20 and injured 70. We can only hope that Morsi’s new government will see fit to stem the rapidly increasingly violence against Coptic Christians.
In 1990, there were over 1.2 million Christians in Iraq but by the end of 2003, there were fewer than 500,000; in 2013, there are fewer than 200,000 Iraqi Christians. In 2010, al Qaeda militants attacked a Baghdad cathedral, killing over 50 people and maiming many more. While Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites are deeply divided, they are united in their persecution of Christians. Bishops and priests have been kidnapped and tortured; churches are bombed, killing and injuring Christians. The message, sometimes sent in letter containing a bullet, has been delivered: “Christians should leave or die.”
In 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered by the Pakistani Taliban for his opposition to Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws. Bhatti, a Catholic, was Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities. In fact, a death sentence is meted out to any Pakistani courageous enough to speak out in defense of religious minorities. Bhatti instructed his estate to publish avideo upon his untimely death; in it he said, “I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to defend their rights. I prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather than to compromise. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know… the meaning of the Cross and I follow him on the Cross.” Speaking of justice — Bhatti’s two killers have never been charged.
We can move more quickly through the countries. Consider apostasy laws in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Iran, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Sudan and Malaysia. By apostasy, read “Muslim convert to Christianity.” Of the plight of apostates, Ziya Meral, a London-based Turkish scholar, writes: “Apostates are subject to gross and wide-ranging human rights abuses including extra-judicial killings by state-related agents or mobs; honour killings by family members; detention, imprisonment, torture, physical and psychological intimidation by security forces; the denial of access to judicial services and social services; the denial of equal employment or education opportunities; social pressure resulting in loss of housing and employment; and day-to-day discrimination and ostracism in education, finance and social activities.”