A terrorist suicide bomber detonated himself in a crowd of Christians outside an Alexandria, Egypt church on New Year’s Day. Twenty-one people were killed and many dozens were injured.
Christians make up 10% of Egypt’s population of 80 million. The Alexandria attack follows on decades of Muslim attacks on Christians throughout the Middle East, reaching a crescendo in the early 1990s.
In Iraq a massacre led by al Qaeda at a Catholic church in Baghdad on October 31, 2010 left 60 people dead and 100 injured and maimed. Al Qaeda now is targeting Iraqi Christians in their homes.
This trend has led to an exodus of Christians from Iraq, which today has 850,000 Christians. Their population lived in relative stability under Saddam Hussein but is now about 55% what it was when Hussein was in power (1.5 million out of a population of 25 million). Christmas services were canceled all over the nation in 2010. Christians were told not to decorate their homes.
More than 80% of Iraqi Christians are said to be “not going to the churches,” according to the head of Iraq‘s Christian Endowment group, Abdullah al-Noufali. “There is no more Sunday school, no school for teaching Christianity. Yesterday we had a discussion about what we would do for Christmas. We took a decision just to do one mass. In years before we had many masses.”
Since the October massacre Iraqi Christians have been leaving the country by the thousands or going north to the Kurdish region after the president of the regional government, Massoud Barazani, offered them protection and refuge.
Kurdish officials say at least 1,000 families have taken up the offer but others believe that the number is much higher, with Kurds welcoming them, but uncertainty remaining over the long-term viability of their residence in the region.
Christian-Muslim animus has festered for more than a millennium since the Frankish king Charles Martel (688-741), the grandfather of Charlemagne, ejected the Muslims of Spain in his victory at Tours, France in 732. The Vatican has expressed concern over the increasing exodus of Christians today from Iraq and from the Middle East in general, and the current situation in Iraq proves that the Bush strategy in that nation was unsound on yet another front.
Father Yusef Muwaness, of the Council of Catholic Churches in the Middle East, said from Lebanon that, “We understand the shock (the Iraqi Christians) are enduring. We want them to know that they won’t be left alone. There are ancient issues at work. These people (al Qaeda) are killing because of a fatwa. There has not been a mufti who has stood up and said this is wrong.”
Lebanon’s Christians once held a demographic majority but exodus and a brutal civil war have whittled numbers down. Amin Gemayel, a former Lebanese president and now the patriarch of many of the country’s remaining Christians, believes far more could be done by Muslim leaders to slow the outflow.
“The Christians were very nationalistic,” he said. “They are part of the foundations of this area. We can’t understand such extremity then passivity from the leaders. When the region is completely cleansed of other religions (apart from Islam) it will be a surrender to the fundamentalists.”
Egypt‘s leaders have traditionally been supportive of the nation’s minority Christian population, and were quick to call for unity after the New Year’s attack. President Hosni Mubarak promised in a televised address that terrorists would not destabilize Egypt or divide Christians and Muslims. He said the attack “carries evidence of the involvement of foreign fingers” and vowed to prosecute the perpetrators.
What does all this mean? Why are innocent Christians worshippers increasingly being attacked and driven out of the Middle East while at the same time radical Islamists are growing in number and influence in the Christian West?
It is an example of how the West is becoming increasingly oblivious and apathetic under the machinations of radical Islam and its soul mate in radical socialism. Leftists in America, who for decades have sought to marginalize our nation’s Christian founding and our Christian heritage today are advocating for Muslims at every turn. For instance, they are favoring the construction of a new mosque adjacent to the Ground Zero site in New York City while a destroyed Greek Orthodox church near Ground Zero, which had stood for decades up to 9/11, has faced years of obstruction from the city and may never be rebuilt. Meanwhile in Oklahoma a state law was blocked that demanded that Islamic sharia law never be incorporated into American law.
Notice what Father Muwaness said: “These people (al Qaeda) are killing because of a fatwa. There has not been a mufti who has stood up and said this is wrong.”
Indeed therein lies the crisis. Muslims in their new homes in the Christian West increasingly are gravitating to the most radical forms of Islam and are increasingly silent about terrorism. Even in a ‘secular’ Muslim nation like Turkey, radical Islamists are increasing their power, worrying some international observers that Turkey’s days as a pro-Western government are numbered.
And it is Muslims who are migrating in large number into the West to escape the poverty and backwardness of their Islamic nations, not the other way around. Yet these Muslims, even radical ones, are being allowed to stay in the West while normal, everyday Christian worshippers are being driven out of the Middle East by the same radical elements.
Republican congressman Peter King will hold hearings on the subject of the radicalization of Islam in America in the coming months. King said that he had had good relations with Muslims before 9/11 but that after the attack, Muslims began to claim that the CIA or Israel was behind the attack and they scaled back their cordial contacts with him.
How should the United States respond to Christians being driven out of the Middle East?
America should start an immediate and vigorous program of deportation of all Muslim radicals from our shores; halt all Muslim immigration into America; and at the same time offer every Middle Eastern Christian asylum in America. After decades of giving asylum to persecuted people of every strip across the globe, it is time for the US to start welcoming those who are most in accord with our nation’s founding and principles than any other group.
On Christian freedom of worship in the Middle East, Riazat Butt, writing on guardian.co.uk reported recently that:
‘In Lebanon, where about half the population are Christian, believers are allowed to practise their faith without fear of persecution. The Maronite Church is the largest, most politically active and influential denomination, holding 34 of the 64 Christian seats in the Lebanese parliament.
In Jordan, Christians are free to profess their faith, build churches, schools, hospitals and universities. They attend mass and there are public celebrations of religious festivals and ceremonies. They experience less discrimination and more freedom than fellow believers in Egypt and Iraq. There is a similar portrait of stability and freedom in Syria, where Christians comprise up to 10% of the population.
Evangelising by Protestants in Jordan has prompted a crackdown on churches, visas and summer camps. Attempting to convert Muslims is illegal, but there is no law against proselytising to other Christians and some Catholic and Orthodox groups have complained of energetic wooing from Protestants. It is this evangelising that has offended authorities, keen to avoid religious zealotry of any sort.
What Saudi Arabia lacks in violent persecution it makes up for in outright intolerance. There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, which counts a million Catholics in its population. The country allows Christians to enter for work purposes but severely restricts the practise of their faith.
Christians worship in private homes and there are bans on religious articles including Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings and items bearing religious symbols. The religious police bar the practice of any religion other than Islam. Conversion of a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy and carries a death sentence if the accused does not recant. Still, Christians in Saudi Arabia are positively blessed compared with those of Iraq. ‘
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