The most heartbreaking, yet overlooked repercussion of the Arab Spring has been the intensified suffering of Christians at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. Horrific accounts of persecution are commonly documented by both Christian and Middle Eastern media, but are rarely reported outside the region. Thus, little is known in the West about such occurrences, despite the persecution of Christians having doubled in 2013 on the numbers for the previous year, according nondenominational group Open Doors, which supports persecuted Christians.
Open Doors’ annual World Watch List, which ranks the countries where Christians face the most persecution, lists North Korea as the most dangerous country. However, 36 out of the top 50 nations are Islamic, indicating that Islamic fundamentalism is the biggest overall threat Christianity currently faces.
One recent example out of Somalia (ranked second on the World Watch List), sheds light on the deplorable circumstances Middle Eastern Christians face. Militants from the terrorist entity Al-Shabab reportedly beheaded a mother of two girls, ages 8 and 15, and her cousin upon discovering that they were Christians. The girls were forced to watch their own mother be martyred at the hands of savages. This has been only one of the many vile acts experienced on a daily basis by the Christians in the Middle East.
In Nigeria, terrorist group Boko Haram (meaning “Western teaching is forbidden”) has continuously targeted Christians for over four years. It’s attacks have cost the lives of thousands and destroyed and churches and schools, leaving Nigerians in a perpetual state of fear and insecurity. These attacks have been in keeping with Boko Haram’s professed goal of wiping out the Christian population and establishing an Islamic state in Nigeria. if the rest of the world continues to turn a blind eye and with the Nigerian military struggling to counter the menace, Boko Haram appears well on its way to acvhieving its goals.
Nor is Boko Haram the only group targeting Christians in Nigeria. Iin March, Muslim Fulani herdsman took the lives of over 100 Christians and destroyed homes and churches in Kaduna.
The civil war in Syria also has had devastating consequences for Christians. The rebels, commonly depicted by leftists and Islamic apologists as freedom fighters, have kidnapped, raped and beheaded Christians. Recently, Christians in Raqqa have been placed under “dhimmitude” by the rebel group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), meaning they have to pay jizya tax in return for protection (protection from being killed for non-conversion). In addition, they must endure demeaning restrictions on the practice of their faith. This is emblematic of the ultimate goal of the rebels and Sharia advocates all over the world — that the time has come for the Caliphate to be re-established.
In Iraq, the Christian population is facing extinction. Last Christmas, three separate bomb attacks occurred on the same day, killing at least 37 Iraqi Christians.
In Libya, entities such as Al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar Al-Sharia continue to target Christians. More recently, seven Coptic Christians were executed after terrorists went on a door-to-door hunt. Open Doors estimates that, since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, as many as three Christians in four have fled the country. No word yet on which obscure YouTube video the Obama Administration will use to explain and justify these attacks.
While Egyptians overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood, many of its supporters still blame Coptic Christians for undermining their dreams of a fundamentalist nation governed by Sharia law, and in doing so actively seek to make life a misery for the Copts. Immediately after the overthrow, churches all over Egypt were destroyed.
In Iran, many Christians are jailed, beaten and refused medical care because they are “unclean”. This includes American pastor Saeed Abedini, who remains in prison while the Obama Administration remains largely indifferent to his plight. Securing Abedini’s release was not a priority for the Administration during the talks concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, nor was it part of Hassan Rouhani’s “charm offensive”, despite the left’s imaginary conception of Rouhani as Iran’s Mikhail Gorbachev.
The mainstream media’s failure to highlight outrages and tragedies of this burdens it with almost as much guilt for the attacks as accrues to the perpetrators themselves. It is only when Christians are justifiably compelled to defend themselves and their loved ones that the media takes notice.
Why is the media so reluctant to cover this issue? Simply put, the war on Christians runs contrary to the narrative promoted by academics and other members of the leftist intelligentsia: Christianity is an imperialist force and Islam the religion of peace, a creed which has been misunderstood and mistreated by the West. Noticing Christian blood spilled by Muslims also would undermine the premise of the term “Islamophobia”, one of the favourite tools the left employs to attack free speech. “Christophobia” would be a more accurate term to describe the reality on the ground.
Perhaps more scandalous than the media’s silence is that churches in the West have been apathetic for the most part in protesting and drawing attention to the escalating offensiove against the co-religionists. One can assume the reasons for this silence, but a fear of being labelled Islamophobic must surely figure near the top of the list. Speaking up in defence of their beleaguered brethren takes a backseat, apparently, to enjoying kind words in the press and remaining subservient to the cultural milieu of the day.
Despite all the grim news there are, however, some glimmers of hope. Organizations like Barnabas Aid and Open Doors have always assisted and cared for suffering Christians. A relatively new organization — Rescue Christians, run by former Palestinian terrorist-turned-Christian Walid Shoebat, has been created in response to the increased urgency and dire circumstances, spiriting Christians to safety. So far, Shoebat’s organisation has saved numerous Pakistani Christians from the yoke of anti-blasphemy laws, and intends to expand such rescue missions to other areas of the Middle East. Via translations from Arab sources as well as video footage, the organisation has exposed atrocities, such as the Syria atrocities. Such acts are so vile that they are hard for us in the West to comprehend, but regrettably this is reality and something must be done.
Both Christians and champions of freedom should support efforts like that of Rescue Christians, and speak out about the plight of Christians in the Middle East. If the Christian population in the Middle East perishes, the West will bear the enduring stain of having stood idle and silent in the face of evil. More than that, once the jihadis have driven Christians from the Middle East, what will dissuade them from exporting their war to the West.
Irene Petros is the pseudonym of Christian university student. She chooses not to use her real name for fear of harassment on campus