Modern Christian Persecution   Leave a comment

This last week, several Christian friends with Middle-Eastern connections asked me if I would write something about the persecution of Christians in the birthplace of Christianity.

Image result for image of coptic christian martyrsWhatever questionable benefit they were for democracy, the U.S. interventions in the Middle East and the Arab Spring have become pure hell for Arab Christians. In 2016, an estimated 90,000 Christians worldwide died for their faith.

Copts are among the earliest Christians, dating to the first century A.D., when John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas and writer of one of the four Gospels, became bishop in Alexandria and established the first church outside the Holy Land.

Copts make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population. They have been especially targeted for terrorist attacks since the 2013 overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, who had been elected president after the ouster of longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak. In the subsequent struggle between Egypt’s Islamists and the regime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (who was welcomed to the Trump White House in March) the Copts are seen as soft-target allies of Gen. el-Sissi’s though they’ve long been hated for their faith.

On Palm Sunday, 44 Copts were martyred in Egypt while celebrating Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Over 100 were injured in the blasts at St. George’s Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s in Alexandria.

The Islamic State group claims credit for the murders, which were given only cursory coverage by the media which was far more concerned with the dead children from the Syrian gas attacks. I’m not rating either one as more horrible than the other. I’m saying the persecution and murder of Christians by Islamists deserves as much coverage as the killing of Muslims by Islamists. I do not buy  that Assad, on the eve of a peace treaty, would have gassed his own people. It defies logic and if you watch Baraba Walters’ interview with Assad, he does not come off as insane.

In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Christians were left alone if they did not interfere in politics. Iraqi Christians prospered as doctors, lawyers, journalists, academics, engineers, businessmen. A Christian, Tariq Aziz, was Saddam’s foreign minister who negotiated with Secretary of State James Baker to try to prevent what became the Gulf War.

Before 2003, there were still 800,000 Christians in Iraq. But after a decade of church bombings and murders of priests, their numbers have plummeted. When the Islamic State seized a third of Iraq, Christians under the group’s rule had to convert to Islam and pay a crushing tax or face beheading.

Under Syria’s dictator Hafez al-Assad and son Bashar, Christians have been 10 percent of the population and protected by the regime. They thus have sided with Assad against the terrorists of the Islamic State and al-Qaida, whose victory would mean their expulsion or death.

Of the 10 nations deemed by Christianity Today to be the most hateful and hostile toward Christianity, eight are majority-Muslim nations, with the Middle East being the site of the worst of today’s persecutions.

Afghanistan, which the US “liberated” in 2001, is listed as the third-most hostile nation toward Christians. Christian baptism there is punishable by death. A decade ago, a Christian convert had to flee his country to avoid beheading.

A decade and a half after we launched invasions and occupations of the Muslim world in Afghanistan and then Iraq to bring the “blessings” of “democracy”, the people there who profess the Christian faith are being persecuted as horribly as they were under the Romans in Nero’s time. I’m still waiting for the promised gains for religious freedom and human rights that will justify the bombings, invasions and wars we have conducted from Libya to Pakistan, the death and suffering the US military has inflicted, and the losses US citizens have endured.

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