The influence of lobbying groups such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have been remarkably successful in persuading the political elites and journalists in the West to believe in a systematic anti-Muslim discrimination called “Islamophobia”. However, a fair-minded assessment of events leads to the conclusion that this pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia plaguing Muslim-majority nations all around the globe.
Christians comprise by far the most widely persecuted religious group in the world. As noted by the Pew Research Center, Christians have been seriously persecuted in more countries than any other religious group, and have suffered harassment most notably in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa. By persecution I mean any instance of ‘discriminatory treatment accompanied by actual or perceived threats of violence or other forced conversion’.
Christianity is at serious risk of completely disappearing from the Middle East, where Christians have suffered genocide as defined by the United Nations. A century ago they comprised 20 per cent of the region’s population. Today, they are less than four per cent. In some parts of the Middle East and Africa, Islamic perpetrators openly declare their intent to entirely eradicate and exterminate all the Christians still inhabiting the region. The most common forms of persecution and incitement to hatred are promoted through media and from the pulpit.
According to a seminal report commissioned by the British Foreign Secretary, today in the Islamic world millions of Christians in Muslim-majority countries have been uprooted from their homes, killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and and made the objects of endemic discrimination. This report highlights the numerous instances by which anti-Christian discrimination in south-east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and in East Asia is taking place, often driven by pro-Islamic regimes. The inconvenient truth, informs that official report, is that in almost every Muslim country across the world Christians exist on sufferance and, increasingly, not even on that. Let’s take a few examples.
The severe persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is an urgent human rights issue that rarely gets much attention in the Western Media. Even a considerable number of church leaders in the West have miserably betrayed their fellow believers in the Islamic world by turning a blind eye to the gross violation of human rights. As Britain’s former chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, told the British House of Lords recently: ‘The persecution of Christians throughout much of the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and elsewhere is one of the crimes against humanity of our time and I’m appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked’.
Let’s take a few examples.
Islam has been the official religion since the country’s founding in 1932, when it defined itself as an Islamic state and declared the Koran to be the fundamental law of the land. That being so, all Saudis are required by law to be Muslim. Christians cannot worship in public at all, or be ministered to by clergy even in private. They are not entitled to hold Christian meetings even in the privacy of their own homes. A Christian caught practising his or her faith might well be beheaded.
Saudi Arabia allows no churches and public manifestations of Christianity. Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdulaiziz al-Sheich holds his high cabinet level post by appointment from the king. In March 2012, he issued a fatwa declaring ‘it necessary to destroy all the churches in the region, including those outside of Saudi Arabia itself’. The kingdom’s continual commitment to religious cleansing means that it does not even permit churches that are state regulated. Secret congregations praying together in private homes risk being raided and shut down, their members flogged, beaten, jailed, deported, even killed.
It is public knowledge that mosque speakers in Saudi Arabia continue to pray for the death of Christians and Jews, including at Mecca’s Grand Mosque and at the Mosque in Medina, where they serve at the pleasure of King Abdullah. By way of example, a Saudi religious policeman recently murdered his daughter when he discovered that she had secretly converted to Christianity. His brother found a cross on her computer screen and, for such a crime, her tongue cut out by her own father who then burned her alive.
State schools in Saudi Arabia teach students to “hate” Christians as “infidels” and to view Christians and Jews as “enemies” of the theocratic state. An official eighth-grade textbook notoriously teaches Saudi children that ‘the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians’. In November 2005, a high school teacher was severely punished because he dared to discuss the Bible ‘in positive terms’. For such a “terrible” crime, the school teacher was sentenced to three years in prison and 750 lashes on charges of blasphemy and insulting Islam.
Why are the Western governments, including Australia’s, so silent about these egregious instances of severe religious persecution? The answer apparently lies on the strong economic ties between the Western world and the oppressive Saudi regime. As Paul Marshall points out in his book The Global Assault on Christians,
Because Saudi Arabia supplies one-quarter of the world’s oil … the United States and other governments have been reluctant to press it harder to end its demonization and incitement to violence against Christians … both within the kingdom and throughout the world. This reluctance exists despite the financial and other support for terrorism that emanates from the kingdom – terrorism that is based on [Islamic] doctrines of religious hatred and jihad.
Christianity in Egypt is ancient, founded in the first century by St. Mark, the gospel writer. In 639, Caliph Umar initiated the Islamic invasion of Egypt. Sustained attacks on Christians erupted in Cairo in 1321, when Muslim mobs began destroying large numbers of churches and monasteries. These anti-Christian attacks were carefully orchestrated, thus making arson, looting, and murder widespread throughout Egypt. In those days, Muslim mobs often attacked Christian in the streets, ‘throwing them into bonfires if they refused … to acknowledge Allah as the One True God’. In 1354, for example, according to Al-Maqrizi’s (1364-1442) account, in ‘all the provinces of Egypt, both north and south, no church remained that had not been razed … Thus did Islam spread among the Christians of Egypt’.
The so-called “Arab Spring” proved to be a disastrous “winter” for the Christian Egyptians. Due to a Muslim majority, democratic elections resulted in the election of a government determined to install strict Sharia law and forbid all Christian activities. The Pew Research Center found in that time that about 60 per cent of the population expected their country to enforce the teachings of the Koran more strictly.
While the situation was far from undesirable, attacks on Christians have dramatically increased ever since President Mubarak’s resignation. The Islamists now regularly attack the Christian Copts, killing them and burning down their places of worship. Egyptian authorities routinely downplay or cover up violence against Christians by refusing to investigate these incidents properly. Judges and law enforcement officials have developed a tactic of requesting “reconciliation” sessions between Christians and the Muslim attackers. As widely reported,
authorities use this enforced reconciliation as a cosmetic substitute for trying and punishing the attackers and compensating the victims. The culprits escape, secure in the knowledge that attacking Christians, their church, or their property brings little or no penalty. Often such cases results in even greater injury to the Copts, because they are sometimes expelled fromm the areas – their homes and workplaces – where they were victimised.
Christianity in Iran has a history that precedes, by several centuries, the Islamic conquest of the region. The Church of St. Mary, in the northwest, remains the world’s second-oldest surviving church. For more than a century after falling to Islamic invaders, Iranians frequently revolted against Islamic rule so that many very bloody battles ensued, followed by brutal repression. These conflicts resulted in a substantial extermination of the non-Muslim population.
Iranian Christians still face systematic persecution by a theocratic government that often portrays them as “Western” and therefore as enemies of the theocratic state. There are now about three hundred thousand Christians living in Iran. Many of them are ethnic Armenians who belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church.
However, reliable reports indicate an ever-increasing number of Iranian Muslims converting to Christianity, for which they face severe retaliation and ultimately the risk of execution. Murdering anyone who leaves the Islamic faith carries no punishment in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Likewise, the penalty for the killing of an innocent Christian is considerably lower than that applied for the killing a Muslim.
Pakistan has small pockets of both Hindus and Christians, each group representing less than two per cent of the population of 197 million. Pakistani Christians live a precarious existence and are constantly ‘discriminated against in the Sharia courts, terrorized under draconian blasphemy laws, demonized in classrooms, and often denied protection by law enforcement and the criminal justice system’. Most of these Christians live in extreme poverty and risk suffering violent attacks, targeted abuses and restrictions of all sorts.
Christians have been regularly killed, subject to forced conversions and enslaved. Their churches have been destroyed and their property looted. Islamisation did much in Pakistan to eliminate due process, to erode the independence of the judiciary and convert courts into instruments of repression and intimidation. Pakistani blasphemy laws prescribe death for anyone who, even accidentally, defiles the name of the Prophet. These laws are notorious for their ‘severity of penalty’ and are regularly used to criminalise attempts by non-Muslims to convert Muslims. Under articles 295 B, 295 C, 298 A, 298 B, 298 C of the Pakistani Penal Code, profaning the Koran and insulting Mohammed are punishable offences carrying maximum sentences of life imprisonment and death. Despite the severity of these penalties, ‘mobs often take the law in their own hands following blasphemy accusations. A number of those accused of blasphemy have been killed before the cases reach the courts.’
Since in Pakistan “defiling the name of Muhammad” is deemed a crime of blasphemy that carries a mandatory death sentence, malicious accusations are often made by Muslims against innocent Christians. The false accuser knows that, although a mandatory death sentence is applied to all those who “defile” the name of the Prophet, no penalty is applied against these false accusations. The accuser also knows that, as a Muslim, his words are believed in preference to those of the Christian defendant. Muslim judges are commanded by their religious law to believe in the word of a Muslim over that of a Christian.
The case of Asia Bibi illustrates the gravity of this situation. This Pakistani Christian woman and mother of five children was working in the fields near her home in Ittan Wali. It was a scorching day and her co-workers were thirsty. Someone asked her to fetch water for them. When she returned, some women refused to drink the water because Bibi is a Christian. They pronounced the water to be “unclean”. An argument ensued resulting in Bibi being accused of blaspheming, a capital crime under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. For saying ‘I believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?’, Ms Bibi was put on death row in a country where hurting the feelings of Muslims is interpreted as a crime of blasphemy and punishable by death. 
Christian women are particularly vulnerable to violent attacks. They have been raped and their fundamental rights invariably denied.  As many as 50 per cent of Pakistani Christians live in extreme poverty and Christian women are the constant victims of sexual abuse. The kidnapping by Muslims of girls from Christian backgrounds is a problem aggravated by the authorities’ reluctance to take any action against their sexual predators. The following case illustrates the problem:
Police refused to start an investigation after Arif Masih and his sister, Jameela, were seized by seven men with guns and rods who burst into the family home near Kasur in September 2016. After beating members of the Christian family, the intruders dragged 17-year-old Jameela and 20-year-old Arif into a van parked outside the home. After Arif finally escaped from the large house the siblings were taken to, he described hearing his sister screaming and reported being told that men were taking turns to rape her, but that this would stop if he converted to Islam.
Christians are the most persecuted people in the world and the most widespread persecution today takes place in the Muslim world, where it is both spreading and intensifying. Christian once comprised 20 per cent of the population in the Middle East. Today, however, they are less than 4 per cent of the population.
Christianity faces the possibility of being completely wiped-out in the Middle East, where its roots go back to the death of Jesus Christ. In parts of the Middle East and Africa, the perpetrators have openly declared their intent to completely eradicate the Christianity community. We are effectively witnessing a religious genocide and forced exodus of people because they are Christians, and only because of their Christian faith. As noted by Barbara Kay, ‘we are seeing mass exoduses of Christians from Middle Eastern countries in which they are indigenous inhabitants’.
Western politicians are normally quite keen to talk about so-called “Islamophobia”, but are too cowardly to condemn the objectively more horrific problem of Christophobia and a rising genocide that has cost millions of innocent lives in the Islamic world over the last few decades. The blood of the innocent clambers for justice and Western governments that turn a blind eye to such atrocities must receive our strongest condemnation.
Dr Augusto Zimmermann LLB (Hon.), LLM cum laude, PhD (Mon.) is Professor and Dean of Law at Sheridan College in Perth, Western Australia, and Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus. He is also President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA), and a former Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017). Dr Zimmermann is also the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research, Murdoch University (2012). This is an extract from a longer paper presented at the Liga Cristã Mundial (World Christian League) – LCM, São Paulo (Brazil), 23rd May 2019.
 Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen ‘Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians – Interim Report’, Easter 2019.
 Adam Becket, ‘Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, says Pew report’, Church Times, 29 June 2018.
 Ibid., p 3.
 Mounstephen, above n.1, p 8. .
 Mounstephen, above n.1, p 9. .
 Ibid., pp 4-5.
 Mounstephen, above n.1, p 6.
 Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), p 154.
 Ibid., p 156.
 Ibid., p 158.
 Ibid., pp 158-159.
 Ibid., p 166.
 Ibid., p 178.
 Ibid., p 184.
 Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (New York/NY: HarperOne, 2011), p 203.
 Ibid. p 209.
 ‘Egyptians Back Sharia Law, End of Israel Treaty, Poll Shows’, Arabian Business.Com, April 26, 2011, at http://www.arabianbusiness.com/egyptians-back-sharia-law-end-of-israel-treaty-poll-shows-396178.html
 Marshall, above n.8, p 186.
 Ibid., p 172.
 Ibid., p 158.
 Ibid., p 172.
 Rupert Shortt, Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack (Croydon/UK: Random House, 2012), 64-86. ‘In the meantime, individuals who seek to reform the blasphemy laws continue to be killed. The governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer was murdered in January 4, 2011 and Minister Shabaz Bhatti was murdered on March 2, 2011 due to their opposition to the blasphemy laws … The blasphemy laws, couple with the government’s failure to address religious hostility or punish extremists, have fostered an atmosphere of intolerance and violence’. – Kiley Widelitz, ‘A Global Blasphemy Law: Protecting Believers at the Expense of Free Speech’ (2013) 6 Pepperdine Policy Review 1, 9.
 Charles Moore, ‘Is It only Mr. Bean who Resists this New Religious Intolerance?’, Daily Telegraph, December 11, 2004, at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/3613495/Is-it-only-Mr-Bean-who-resists-this-new-religious-intolerance.html
 Mounstephen, above n.1, p 13.
 Ibid., p 13.
 Patrick Sookhdeo, Islam: The Challenge to the Church (Wiltshire/UK: Isaac Publishing, 2006), 62.
 Ibid, p 67.
 Ibid., p 96.
 Lizzie Dearden, ‘Teenaged Christian Boy Arrested for Sharing ‘Blasphemous’ Facebook Post in Pakistan’, Independent, London/UK, September 21, 2016, at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/teenage-boy-christian-arrested-sharing-blasphemous-facebook-post-in-pakistan-nabeel-chohan-kaaba-a7321156.html
 See: John L. Allen Jr., The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution (New York/NY: Image Books, 2013), pp 85-87
 Mounstephen, above n.1, p 7.
 Mounstephen, above n.1, p 13.
 Marshall, above n.8, p 123.
 Mounstephen, above n.1, p 8. .
 Barbara Kay, ‘Our Politicians May Not Care, But Christians Are Under Siege Across the World’, National Post, May 7, 2019, at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/barbara-kay-our-politicians-may-not-care-but-christians-are-under-siege-across-the-world