Militant Muslims and political posturing has diminished
Christianity in the "biblical heartlands" of the Middle East by
one-half to two-thirds over the past century.
There might be a "war on terror" currently going on in the West,
but there's been a war on Christianity brewing in the Middle East
for more than 100 years.
A recent report released by the London-based think tank Civitas warns
that Christianity is on the verge of extinction in an area commonly
known as the "biblical heartlands" of the Middle East.
The cause? According to the 40-page report [PDF] -- titled
"Christianophobia" -- Christian persecution by militant Islamists
is by far the greatest threat, aided and abetted by the political
maneuvering of governments turning a blind eye to the atrocities.
It asserts that such oppression and intolerance is ignored in
Muslim nations, due to an underlying fear that criticism of such
abuse will be construed as "racism."
"Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be
political priorities across large areas of the world," expresses
the author of the report, Rupert Shortt, who is a journalist and
visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, in England. "That this
is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of
He notes that the negligence of state officials to report and
deal with persecution adds fuel to the fire.
"The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential
players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity,"
continues Shortt. "Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for
human rights generally."
And the Middle East isn't the only region where such violence
prevails, as other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, are also
hotspots for the persecution of Christians, who the study warns are
the recipients of the greatest amount of hostility suffered by any
religious group on the planet.
Targeting the cross
Even though Christians aren't the only religious group that is
maliciously targeted for its faith, its persecution is by far the
"It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face
discrimination or persecution to some degree," the report states.
"A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted
more than any other body of believers."
And where, specifically,
does most of this persecution take place? The research indicates
that Christians are most often targets of violence in nations that
have established Islam as the dominant faith, noting that 50 to 67
percent of Christians living in the Middle East over the last
century have either fled or been murdered in the region.
It also divulges that one out of 10 Christians worldwide
(approximately 200 million of two billion) are "socially
disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their
No other place is this more evident than Islamic nations not far
from Israel's backyard.
"There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear
from its biblical heartlands," the report asserts, noting that
"Muslim-majority" states comprise 12 of the 20 nations categorized
by the human rights think tank, Freedom House, as "unfree" when it
comes to religious tolerance.
The study maintains that in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran
and Mauritania, those converting from Islam face death, while
severe legal prosecution awaits converts in other Middle Eastern
nations. It also lists hundreds of recent attacks over the years
waged by religious militants against Christians. Nations
highlighted for their extreme persecution are Iraq, Egypt,
Pakistan, India, Nigeria, China and Burma.
Fear breeding more fear
Even though much of the Christian persecution taking place
around the world is incited by Islam's holy book, the Koran, and
its teachings of jihad against infidels (those not submitting to
Allah), a lot of attacks on Christians are also rooted in a
presumed fear that Christianity is being used as an agent by the
West to dominate culture and take over political and economic
In fact, the name of the study, "Christianophobia," showcases
how Christianity is feared by many oppressive regimes as a "Western
creed" that will ultimately usurp their power. In no other country
is this governmental fear more prevalent than in communist China --
the leading nation in the world for incarcerating Christians for
"Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export
Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal
evangelistic activities," stated Chinese government advisor, Ma
Hucheng, in the China Social Sciences Press. "Their basic
aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the regime
... in China and overturn it."
In 2011, Hucheng accused the United States of supporting the
proliferation of the Protestant Church in China so that it would
spur political upheaval to overthrow the government.
Muslim unrest on the rise
Another reason for the escalation in Muslim violence in the 21st
Century is attributed by the report to the United States' reaction
from the 9-11 attack, when then-president George W. Bush used the
word "crusade" while describing the conflict -- which allegedly
spurred backlash from Muslims in the Middle East, who considered
his words as a "Christian assault on the Muslim world."
It adds that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 made Iraqi
Christians "more vulnerable than ever," mentioning the beheading of
an Orthodox priest three years later, as well as incidents in Iraq
from 2006 to 2010 when 17 priests and two bishops were
"But however the motivation for violence is measured, the early
twenty-first century has seen a steady rise in the strife endured
by Christians," the report contends. "In most cases, those
responsible declared that they wanted all Christians to be expelled
from the country."
The recent murder of a priest in Pakistan, Hindu extremists
attacking Christian villages in droves in India, and government
restrictions on new churches in Burma are also showcased in the
report, which notes that oppression in non-Christian nations
stretches much farther than many believe.
"Openly professing Christians employed in government service
find it virtually impossible to get promotion," the report informs,
reminding readers that the widespread religious persecution of
Christians across the world is as active today as it ever was in
many different forms.