Skip to main content

War on Christians, 2nd Edition

Fiorello Provera (Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Parliament) recnetly wrote an article in Project Syndicate noting that increasing persecutions of Arab Christians in the wake of the Arab spring. For many Christians in these lands the spring it certainly is not :

The recent abductions of Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and his Greek Orthodox counterpart, Paul Yazigi, reflect not only the increasing brutality of Syria’s civil war, but also the escalating crisis for Christians across the Arab world – one that could end up driving them away altogether.

According to the International Society for Human Rights, 80% of all acts of religious persecution worldwide in 2012 were directed at Christians. This surge in discrimination against Christian communities in countries where they have lived for many centuries can be explained largely by increasing Islamist militancy and the rise of political Islam in the wake of the Arab Spring. As Islamist parties have taken power in the region, a wave of intimidation and discrimination has been unleashed on Christian minority populations.

For example, on February 26, at a garment market in Benghazi, Libya, members of a powerful Islamist militia rounded up dozens of Egyptian Coptic Christians – identified by crosses tattooed on their right wrists – whom they then detained, tortured, and threatened with execution. Among the victims was a Coptic priest, whom the captors beat severely before shaving his head and moustache. Priests have also been assaulted in Tripoli, and churches have been torched. All of this sends a clear message: non-Muslims are not safe in Libya.

While Libya has no significant religious minority, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians live and work in the country, where Christian proselytizing is illegal – and where one can be accused of proselytizing simply for possessing a Bible. But Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government does not seem particularly eager to protect its Christian citizens in Libya; it offered only a half-hearted call for the release of its detained citizens.

This reflects the similarly deteriorating situation for Christians in Egypt, where they account for roughly 15% of the population. In early April, a funeral at St. Mark’s Cathedral (the seat of the Coptic Church in Cairo) for four Christians killed in sectarian riots days earlier descended into chaos, with thousands of mourners attacked as they tried to leave after the service. Police fired tear gas into the compound, standing by as those outside the cathedral launched petrol bombs, hurled rocks, and shot at those inside. At least two died and 80 were injured in the five-hour clash.

Christians blame the Muslim Brotherhood not only for allowing Muslim Egyptians to attack them with impunity, but also for permitting – and delivering – incendiary anti-Christian rhetoric. For example, at an open rally for President Mohamed Morsi last year, the cleric Safwat Hegazy warned that Egyptian Muslims would “splash blood” on Christians who “splash water” on Morsi’s legitimacy.

In February, Egypt’s Coptic patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, sharply criticized the country’s leadership in a televised interview, calling the new constitution discriminatory and dismissing Morsi’s “national dialogues” as an empty gesture. This unusually assertive stance reflects rising frustration among Christians, as well as the secular and liberal opposition, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s power monopoly.

Syria, which once welcomed thousands of Christians fleeing war-torn Iraq, is experiencing an analogous change, as the country’s increasingly sectarian civil war generates fear and mistrust throughout the population. Although Christians have largely sought to remain neutral in the conflict, they have become involved gradually, some by taking up arms and others as victims of kidnapping and violence.

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III recently stated that, since 2011, over 1,000 Christians have been killed and more than 40 churches and other Christian institutions (schools, orphanages, and care homes) have been damaged or destroyed. Some estimate that 300,000 Christians have fled Syria.

Furthermore, fallout from relentless regional conflict is destabilizing Lebanon, a country that offers Christians a constitutional guarantee of political representation. Some 400,000 refugees – many of them Sunni Muslims, including fugitive rebels – have poured over the border from Syria, exacerbating sectarian tensions and threatening to disrupt Lebanon’s delicate social and political balance.

Given that, as Göttingen University’s Martin Tamcke points out, there is no remaining alternative for Christian refugees in the Middle East, they are increasingly heading to Europe and North America. If this trend is allowed to continue, the Middle East will gradually lose its Christian congregations. In order to prevent such a tragic outcome, Western leaders must take a more active role in advocating the protection of Christian minorities throughout the Arab world.

Ultimately, Christians and Muslims in the Arab world have the same desires: freedom, dignity, and equal rights. Those who are persecuting Christians should recognize that the Arab Spring should benefit all Arabs.

Related Posts:

War on Christians, 1st Edition

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Competing Spectacles, A Review

Over the last few weeks the country has been transfixed on the amazing run of the England football team in Euro 2020. I was initially put off watching the football after I saw the team shamefully bowing to BLM at the start of each game. But as the excitement has grown in the country, I have found myself irresistibly pulled to watch a few games in the tournament. The collective national gaze over England’s Euro 2020 is an example of what Tony  Reinke, the author of Competing Spectacles , calls a spectacle.   A spectacle is something visible that captures our collective attention. It is that moment when society’s eyes and brains focus on something projected at us. This may be a big political story, a sports event, a new film or a badly behaved influencer. We primarily experience spectacles through technologies we use. I have been experiencing the spectacle of Euro 2020 through our television, but others have consumed it on the mobile or in person.  Most spectacles are consumed through ha

Are we worth saving?

In the famous film The Fifth Element , Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) poses a challenging rhetorical question to Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) : What's the use in saving life when you see what you do with it? (Watch  here ).   She is speaking 250 years in the future, where life as we know it is threatened by the arrival of Evil. Only Leeloo (the "Fifth Element") can stop Great Evil from extinguishing life. Leeloo is the vulnerable but "supreme being" that comes as human being to save humanity. To accomplish her task she has to activate the four elemental stones of earth, wind, fire and rain, with her self in the middle as the "fifth element" that is forged into the ultimate weapon against Great Evil. It is at this point of salvation, inside the temple of stones, that Leeloo becomes disillusioned and unwilling to perform the role. She comes to realise that human beings are themselves so evil that they are not worth saving. Any “salvation” will be tempor

Jesus Never Fails

Many a times in my life, the words of this childhood hymn has been a tremendous encouragement. I pray this may encourage you too. Keep looking to Jesus! Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails. Your mother will let you down Your father will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails. Your husband will let you down Your wife will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your brothers will let you down Your sisters-will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your church will let you down Your work will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your friends will let you down Your country will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your wealth will let you down Your health will let you down The man of the world