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Jewish World Review
Oct 12, 2011
/ 13 Tishrei, 5772
The forgotten Christians of the East
Caroline B. Glick
It is unclear what either Western governments or Western churches think they are achieving by turning a blind eye to the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world
On Sunday night, Egyptian Copts staged what was supposed to be a peaceful vigil
at Egypt's state television headquarters in Cairo. The 1,000 Christians
represented the ancient Christian community of some 8 million whose presence in
Egypt predates the establishment of Islam by several centuries. They gathered in
Cairo to protest the recent burning of two churches by Islamic mobs and the
rapid escalation of state-supported violent attacks on Christians by Muslim
groups since the overthrow of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in
According to Coptic sources, the protesters Sunday night were
beset by Islamic attackers who were rapidly backed up by military forces.
Between 19 and 40 Copts were killed by soldiers and Muslim attackers. They were
run over by military vehicles, beaten, shot and dragged through the streets of
State television Sunday night reported only that three soldiers
had been killed. According to al-Ahram Online, the military attacked the studios
of al-Hurra television on Sunday night to block its broadcast of information on
the military assault on the Copts.
Apparently the attempt to control
information about what happened worked. Monday's news reports about the violence
gave little indication of the identity of the dead or wounded. They certainly
left untold the story of what actually happened in Cairo on Sunday
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In a not unrelated event, Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Patriarch
Bechara Rai caused a storm two weeks ago. During an official visit to Paris, Rai
warned French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the fall of the Assad regime in
Syria could be a disaster for Christians in Syria and throughout the region.
Today the Western-backed Syrian opposition is dominated by the Muslim
Brotherhood. Rai cautioned that the overthrow of President Bashar Assad could
lead to civil war and the establishment of an Islamic regime.
the Iranian and Syrian-sponsored insurgency that followed the US-led overthrow
of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime in 2003 fomented a bloody jihad against
Iraq's Christian population. This month marks the anniversary of last year's
massacre of 58 Christian worshippers in a Catholic church in Baghdad. A decade
ago there were 800,000 Christians in Iraq. Today there are 150,000.
the Shah of Iran, Iran's Christians were more or less free to practice their
Today, they are subject to the whims of Islamic overlords who
know no law other than Islamic supremacism.
Take the plight of Yousef
Nadarkhani, an evangelical Protestant preacher who was arrested two years ago,
tried and sentenced to death for apostasy and refusal to disavow his Christian
faith. There is no law against apostasy in Iran, but no matter. Ayatollah
Khomeini opposed apostasy. And so does Islamic law.
story was publicized in the West the Iranians changed their course.
they have reportedly abandoned the apostasy charge and are sentencing Nadarkhani
to death for rape. The fact that he was never charged or convicted of rape is
neither here nor there.
Palestinian Christians have similarly suffered
under their popularly elected governments.
When the Palestinian Authority
was established in 1994, Christians made up 80 percent of Bethlehem's
population. Today they comprise less than 20% of the population.
Hamas "liberated" Gaza in 2007, the area's ancient Christian minority has been
under constant attack. With only 3,000 members, Gaza's Christian community has
seen its churches, convents, book stores and libraries burned by Hamas members
and their allies. Its members have been killed and assaulted. While Hamas has
pledged to protect the Christians of Gaza, no one has been arrested for
JUST AS the Jews of the Islamic world were
forcibly removed from their ancient communities by the Arab rulers with the
establishment of Israel in 1948, so Christians have been persecuted and driven
out of their homes. Populist Islamic and Arab regimes have used Islamic
religious supremacism and Arab racial chauvinism against Christians as rallying
cries to their subjects. These calls have in turn led to the decimation of the
Christian populations of the Arab and Islamic world.
For instance, at the
time of Lebanese independence from France in 1946 the majority of Lebanese were
Christians. Today less than 30% of Lebanese are Christians. In Turkey, the
Christian population has dwindled from 2 million at the end of World War I to
less than 100,000 today. In Syria, at the time of independence Christians made
up nearly half of the population. Today 4% of Syrians are Christian. In Jordan
half a century ago 18% of the population was Christian. Today 2% of Jordanians
Christians are prohibited from practicing Christianity in
Saudi Arabia. In Pakistan, the Christian population is being systematically
destroyed by regime-supported Islamic groups. Church burnings, forced
conversions, rape, murder, kidnap and legal persecution of Pakistani Christians
has become a daily occurrence.
Sadly for the Christians of the Islamic
world, their cause is not being championed either by Western governments or by
Western Christians. Rather than condition French support for the Syrian
opposition on its leaders' commitment to religious freedom for all in a
post-Assad Syria, the French Foreign Ministry reacted with anger to Rai's
warning of what is liable to befall Syria's Christians in the event President
Bashar Assad and his regime are overthrown. The Foreign Ministry published a
statement claiming it was "surprised and disappointed," by Rai's
The Obama administration was even less sympathetic. Rai is now
travelling through the US and Latin America on a three week visit to émigré
Maronite communities. The existence of these communities is a direct result of
Arab and Islamic persecution of Lebanese Maronite Christians.
to the US was supposed to begin with a visit to Washington and meetings with
senior administration officials including President Barack Obama. Yet, following
his statement in Paris, the administration cancelled all of its scheduled
meetings with him. That is, rather than consider the dangers that Rai warned
about and use US influence to increase the power of Christians and Kurds and
other minorities in any post- Assad Syrian government, the Obama administration
decided to blackball Rai for pointing out the dangers.
Evangelical Protestants, most Western churches are similarly uninterested in
defending the rights of their co-religionists in the Islamic world. Most
mainline Protestant churches, from the Anglican Church and its US and
international branches to the Methodists, Baptists, Mennonite and other churches
have organized no sustained efforts to protect or defend the rights of
Christians in the Muslim world.
Instead, over the past decade these
churches and their related international bodies have made repeated efforts to
attack the only country in the Middle East in which the Christian population has
increased in the past 60 years - Israel.
As for the Vatican, in the five
years since Pope Benedict XVI laid down the gauntlet at his speech in Regensburg
and challenged the Muslim world to act with reason and tolerance it its dealing
with other religions, the Vatican has abandoned this principled stand. A true
discourse of equals has been replaced by supplication to Islam in the name of
ecumenical understanding. Last year Benedict hosted a Synod on Christians in the
Middle East that made no mention of the persecution of Christians by Islamic and
populist forces and regimes. Instead, Israel was singled out for
The Vatican's outreach has extended to Iran where it sent a
representative to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's faux counter terror conference. As
Giulio Meotti wrote this week in Ynet, whereas all the EU ambassadors walked out
of Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denying speech at the UN's second Durban conference
in Geneva in 2009, the Vatican's ambassador remained in his seat. The Vatican
has embraced leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and the Middle
It is unclear what either Western governments or Western churches
think they are achieving by turning a blind eye to the persecution and
decimation of Christian communities in the Muslim world. As Sunday's events in
Egypt and other daily anti-Christian attacks by Muslims against Christians
throughout the region show, their behavior is not appeasing anyone. What is
clear enough is that they shall reap what they
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JWR contributor Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where her column appears.
© 2009, Caroline B. Glick