Christians becoming extinct in Middle East?

Saturday, January 5, 2013
Michael F. Haverluck (

Militant Muslims and political posturing has diminished Christianity in the "biblical heartlands" of the Middle East by one-half to two-thirds over the past century.

There might be a "war on terror" currently going on in the West, but there's been a war on Christianity brewing in the Middle East for more than 100 years.

A recent report released by the London-based think tank Civitas warns that Christianity is on the verge of extinction in an area commonly known as the "biblical heartlands" of the Middle East.

"It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree. A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers."
- Civitas report "Christianophobia"

The cause? According to the 40-page report [PDF] -- titled "Christianophobia" -- Christian persecution by militant Islamists is by far the greatest threat, aided and abetted by the political maneuvering of governments turning a blind eye to the atrocities. It asserts that such oppression and intolerance is ignored in Muslim nations, due to an underlying fear that criticism of such abuse will be construed as "racism."

"Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world," expresses the author of the report, Rupert Shortt, who is a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, in England. "That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood."

He notes that the negligence of state officials to report and deal with persecution adds fuel to the fire.

"The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity," continues Shortt. "Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally."

And the Middle East isn't the only region where such violence prevails, as other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, are also hotspots for the persecution of Christians, who the study warns are the recipients of the greatest amount of hostility suffered by any religious group on the planet.

Targeting the cross

Even though Christians aren't the only religious group that is maliciously targeted for its faith, its persecution is by far the least publicized.

"It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree," the report states. "A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers."

No Christian crossAnd where, specifically, does most of this persecution take place? The research indicates that Christians are most often targets of violence in nations that have established Islam as the dominant faith, noting that 50 to 67 percent of Christians living in the Middle East over the last century have either fled or been murdered in the region.

It also divulges that one out of 10 Christians worldwide (approximately 200 million of two billion) are "socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs."

No other place is this more evident than Islamic nations not far from Israel's backyard.

"There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands," the report asserts, noting that "Muslim-majority" states comprise 12 of the 20 nations categorized by the human rights think tank, Freedom House, as "unfree" when it comes to religious tolerance.

The study maintains that in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Mauritania, those converting from Islam face death, while severe legal prosecution awaits converts in other Middle Eastern nations. It also lists hundreds of recent attacks over the years waged by religious militants against Christians. Nations highlighted for their extreme persecution are Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, China and Burma.

Fear breeding more fear

Even though much of the Christian persecution taking place around the world is incited by Islam's holy book, the Koran, and its teachings of jihad against infidels (those not submitting to Allah), a lot of attacks on Christians are also rooted in a presumed fear that Christianity is being used as an agent by the West to dominate culture and take over political and economic systems.

In fact, the name of the study, "Christianophobia," showcases how Christianity is feared by many oppressive regimes as a "Western creed" that will ultimately usurp their power. In no other country is this governmental fear more prevalent than in communist China -- the leading nation in the world for incarcerating Christians for their faith.

"Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities," stated Chinese government advisor, Ma Hucheng, in the China Social Sciences Press. "Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the regime ... in China and overturn it."

In 2011, Hucheng accused the United States of supporting the proliferation of the Protestant Church in China so that it would spur political upheaval to overthrow the government.

Islam crescent and starMuslim unrest on the rise

Another reason for the escalation in Muslim violence in the 21st Century is attributed by the report to the United States' reaction from the 9-11 attack, when then-president George W. Bush used the word "crusade" while describing the conflict -- which allegedly spurred backlash from Muslims in the Middle East, who considered his words as a "Christian assault on the Muslim world."

It adds that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 made Iraqi Christians "more vulnerable than ever," mentioning the beheading of an Orthodox priest three years later, as well as incidents in Iraq from 2006 to 2010 when 17 priests and two bishops were kidnapped.

"But however the motivation for violence is measured, the early twenty-first century has seen a steady rise in the strife endured by Christians," the report contends. "In most cases, those responsible declared that they wanted all Christians to be expelled from the country."

The recent murder of a priest in Pakistan, Hindu extremists attacking Christian villages in droves in India, and government restrictions on new churches in Burma are also showcased in the report, which notes that oppression in non-Christian nations stretches much farther than many believe.

"Openly professing Christians employed in government service find it virtually impossible to get promotion," the report informs, reminding readers that the widespread religious persecution of Christians across the world is as active today as it ever was in many different forms.

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