The walls are closing in on the Middle East's Christians. This needs to be talked about, and quickly, too. We might not be at liberty to do so indefinitely.
The Stonegate Institute (formerly the Hudson) just published an article listing recent instances of violence against Christians in Muslim-dominated countries. You have read of the persecution of Christians in Egypt and might also be familiar with the doings of jihadist militant group Boko Haram, which has been slaughtering Christians in Nigeria for years, culminating most recently in the church bombings on Christmas Day that killed forty people, most of them "dying on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Christmas mass:"
In just the last couple of months, Boko Haram has carried out attacks on dozens of other churches, bombing some, torching others. In one instance, they opened fire on a congregation of mostly women and children, killing dozens; they executed two children of an ex-terrorist because he converted to Christianity; they murdered Christian pastors in cold blood; they "went to shops owned by Christians, ordering them to recite verses from the Quran," killing those who could not.
Just last month, hundreds of armed Muslims from Boko Haram invaded Christian villages, "like a swarm of bees," killing, looting, and destroying. At the end of their four-hour rampage, at least 130 Christians were killed. Forty-five other Christians in another village were slaughtered by another set of "Allahu Akbar!" screaming Muslims. Hundreds of Christians are missing; thousands have fled the region.
This carnage is an extreme example of an ongoing persecution of Christians that has taken many forms and is becoming increasingly brazen. Here's a brief roundup of anti-Christian activity, from the alarming to the appalling, across the Muslim world, as catalogued by Stonegate:
- Indonesia: A few days before Christmas, a statue of the Virgin Mary was decapitated and the cross stolen, an act said to have deeply affected the Catholic community. An extremist group has been attempting to have churches destroyed on the grounds that they do not have the right permits; Christians in one such church were forced to observe Christmas in a private home after Islamists gathered at the church and "threatened to challenge the sermon".
- Iran: Local churches were ordered by State Security to "cancel Christmas and New Year's celebrations as a show of compliance." One church dared to celebrate Christmas and was raided, with all those present, including children, arrested and interrogated. The whereabouts of the reverend and his wife are now unknown.
- Malaysia: Parish priests and church youth group leaders were required to get permission from the police -- involving the submission of names and identity card numbers -- to visit fellow church members during the holiday. Also, data has begun to be collected about Muslim converts to Christianity.
- Ethiopia: Hundreds of Muslims burned down a church on November 29, again on the pretext that it did not have a proper permit.
- Nigeria: In the weeks prior to the Christmas bombings noted above, five churches were destroyed and several Christians killed during a systematic rampage. "The Muslims...[went] round town pointing out church buildings and shops owned by Christians to members of Boko Haram, and they in turn bombed these churches and shops."
- Turkey: A plot by al-Qaeda to bomb "all the churches in Ankara," as well as the Turkish Parliament and the US Embassy, was foiled.
- Algeria: A Muslim convert to Christianity was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of insulting Muhammad.
- Pakistan: The Muslim family of a man who converted to Christianity publicly disowned him, then filed a police complaint against him as an apostate deserving death. In another instance, a Muslim landlord accused a Christian tenant with whom he was having a rent-related dispute of desecrating the Koran. The Christian was arrested and charged with blasphemy, which in Pakistan can carry a sentence of life imprisonment.
- Kashmir: Christians imprisoned for blasphemy are being tortured.
- Kenya: A young Somali Christian was beaten unconscious by seven Somali Muslims, six weeks after the same thing was done to his brother.
- Iraq: Muslims engaged in a series of attacks on Christian-owned businesses in the north following a Friday sermon by a local mullah. Soon thereafter, Muslims shot and killed a Christian couple and injured their children.
- Phillipines: A 71-year-old pastor was shot and killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle. Also, the female pastor of a Pentecostsal church was hacked to death in front of her daughter.
- Uganda: Muslims threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve after a revival, blinding him in one eye and threatening his sight in the other.
The article also notes dhimmi behavior of Christians in the Western world (dhimmis are non-Muslims living under Muslim authority and treated as second-class citizens), including a Christmas service at the University of London featuring readings from the Koran.
The invaluable Lee Smith has an article in Tablet in which he analyzes the precarious state of affairs for Christians in Lebanon. At the end of the piece (which I encourage you to read in its entirety, for its insights into the self-defeating strategic alliances into which the Lebanese Christian community continues to enter), he makes this point:
Those inclined to discount the possibility of a Christian-free Middle East would do well to remember that Jews, in the recent past, had a significant place in the Ottoman Empire and Iran. Were it not for the birth of a sovereign Jewish state that took in Jewish refugees thrown out by countries that turned against them, this regional minority might well have disappeared half a century ago. Without an Israel of their own, if the Christians don’t get it right their era in the Middle East may be coming to an end.