In July 2016, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (pictured in front at center)—the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church—hosts Ignatius Aphrem II (left), patriarch of Antioch and All East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Aram I, head of Lebanon’s Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
While Christianity traces its birthplace to the Middle East, that region has been arguably the most hostile area for the religion in recent years. A new report by the Christian charity group Open Doors has found that most of Israel’s neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories, are among the world’s most dangerous places for Christians.
Susan Michael, U.S. director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), told JNS that “Islamic extremism originated in the Middle East and is the main cause of persecution of Christians in the world today. It is a dangerous and violent ideology that must be stopped.”
Egypt’s embattled Christian minority, which comprises roughly 10 percent of the country’s population and stands as the largest Christian community in the region, has been the frequent target of Islamic terrorism. Coptic churches in Alexandria and Tanta were struck by suicide bombers last April, killing 45 people on Palm Sunday. Last December, at least eight Christians were killed in a terror attack on a Coptic church south of Cairo.
According to the Open Doors report, Egyptian Christians suffer in “various ways” such as pressure on Christian converts to return to Islam, severe restrictions on building places of worship and congregating, and violence.
“Egyptian Christians have had significant attacks and pressure from extremist elements seeking to impose sharia standards on minority faiths, as well as from ISIS factions that want to use Christians as a useful target to undermine the Egyptian government and economy,” David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, told JNS. He added that the report “shows that people who want to make a decision to explore or practice the Christian faith face great cultural pressure, if not violence.”
Adel Guindy, the former president of Coptic Solidarity, a U.S.-based human rights organization that promotes equality for Coptic Christians in Egypt, told JNS that the situation for the Copts has worsened considerably under President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi—despite his rhetoric in support of Christians and against radical Islam—and has reached “an all-time high.”
“El-Sisi is quick to blame it on ‘external forces,’ [but] it is in fact homegrown. It’s a direct result of a permeating hate culture that dominates the entire public space,” Guindy said.
“Furthermore, the ‘big violence’ events that attract international media’s attention are in fact a mere tip of an iceberg of systemic and systematic discrimination and persecution that amount to a state-sanctioned ‘war of attrition,’” he said.
The rest of the Middle East
Elsewhere, the Open Doors report noted that Christian converts in Jordan face “a great deal of persecution, Christians in the Palestinian territories (Gaza Strip and West Bank) are “caught in the middle of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” and that “Islamic militant groups are the clear threat” to Syrian Christians.
“The persecution of Christians in Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian territories does not necessarily come from their governments, but from their populations who have been indoctrinated with Islamic theological teachings that are hostile to non-Muslims. It will take a significant amount of years of intentional education to change that attitude,” said ICEJ’s Michael.
The report identified North Korea as the country where Christians face the highest level of discrimination, followed by Afghanistan and Somalia. More than 3,000 Christians were killed worldwide due to their faith last year.
Other Middle Eastern and North African countries that were ranked among the top 10 most dangerous places for Christians were Libya, Iraq, Iran and Yemen.
“Whether in North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, the Palestinian territories or elsewhere, the persecution of Christians has reached near-epidemic levels,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. “We urge world leaders and international organizations like the U.N. to bring this crisis to the top of their collective agenda and seek to protect endangered Christian minorities and all people of faith.”
The persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries presents a stark contrast to the world’s only Jewish state, where the Christian population has steadily increased in recent years to about 170,000, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Israeli Christians enjoy freedom of worship, and even regularly outperform their Jewish and Muslim counterparts in high school matriculation exams.
“The Arab-Christian minority in Israel is a minority within a minority and faces some challenges, but they are citizens of a democracy that protects their freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” Michael said. “This is in such contrast to the Muslim countries around them, where Christians and their places of worship are regularly attacked. There is a growing number of Christians voluntarily serving in the Israel Defense Forces in order to protect their country and their freedoms from the forces of Islamic militants wanting to destroy Israel.”
Vice President Mike Pence is slated to visit Israel, Egypt and Jordan from Jan. 19-23. According to his spokesperson, Alyssa Farah, Pence is expected “to reaffirm our commitment to work with the U.S.’s allies in the region to defeat radicalism that threatens future generations.”
Coptic Solidarity’s Guindy said that Pence, who is a devout evangelical Christian, should take the opportunity to press Egypt’s El-Sisi on human rights and the protection of Christians.
“It’s certainly important to engage Egypt as a partner in the war against Islamic terrorism. But this should not come at the expense of human rights, civil society and upholding equal citizenship rights for all—including, and especially, Christians and others who do not belong to the Sunni-Muslim majority,” he said.
Michael said that Pence “should require that [countries where Christians are widely persecuted] educate their people to be peaceful and respectful of religious minorities by placing controls on their imams, school textbooks and the media; and make future U.S. financial assistance contingent upon them doing so.”
The future for Mideast Christians
Guindy said that recent trends “make it difficult to predict” whether Mideast Christians can survive “the current tsunami” of persecution.
“The picture is rather gloomy, and the fact that Christians’ presence in the Middle East has shrunk from one-fifth of the population a century ago to barely 3 percent today speaks volumes….Islamist pressure, coupled with the West’s lack of action beyond hollow words of sympathy, make it difficult to be realistically optimistic,” he said.
Michael is more optimistic.
“Leaders of Middle Eastern countries are currently doing a lot of soul-searching because of the violence and civil wars generated by extremism, and this should slowly trickle into Africa and Asia,” she said. “The challenge facing these leaders, however, is changing the hearts and minds of their people.adle-christianity/#yYs5ScOlIIIt5pDw.99ge!
Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker announcing the passage of the Taylor Force Act through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August 2017. Photo: Screenshot.
The US Senate is preparing to vote on the Taylor Force Act that links US financial assistance to the Palestinians with a verifiable end to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of “martyr payments” to convicted terrorists and their families – and the final version of the bill leaves the PA with little room to maneuver if it wants to continue receiving US aid.
“Awake, awake, O Tzion! Clothe yourself in splendor; Put on your robes of majesty, Yerushalayim, holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall never enter you again.” Isaiah 52:1 (The Israel Bible™)
An Iranian drone entered Israeli territory from Syria last weekend and was shot down by an IDF attack helicopter. As a result of the incursion, Israeli jets attacked a mobile command center near Damascus, where the drone originated from. However, Syrian forces responded with anti-aircraft fire at the Israeli jets, damaging one jet and forcing the pilots to eject after they crossed back into Israeli airspace
The entrance to Auschwitz
Head of Poland’s Law and Justice Party
ul. Nowogrodzka 84/86 02-018 Warsaw, Poland
Dear Mr. Kaczynski,
My heart goes out to you over your dilemma to properly identify the mass extermination camps that the Nazis established on Poland’s sacred soil.
To call the camps Polish camps would suggest that Poland established them. This is clearly not true.
The NFL players at Shiloh: Right to left: Chris Harris Jr., Avery Williamson, Geoff Schwartz, Joshua Norman, Vic Beasley, Mitchell Schwartz (Photo courtesy Westray Communications)
Barely one week after the Super Bowl, seven of the top NFL players are on a six-day tour of Israel after landing in the Jewish state on Tuesday night. Their visit has already evoked feelings of awe and wonder at the sense of spirituality and connection with God in the land of Israel.
Protest against former Israeli minister Dan Meridor at King’s College London. Photo: Screenshot.
The representative body of British Jewry said it’s “appalled” by a protest staged at King’s College London (KCL) on Monday against a lecture by a former Israeli minister, during which audience members “were barracked and intimidated in a completely unacceptable way.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned some 50 protesters who targeted individuals entering and exiting a talk with Dan Meridor — a former deputy prime minister and minister of intelligence in the Israeli government — with loud chants of “shame” and “criminal,” according to video footage.
For the moment, an Israel-Iran nuclear war is logically out of the question. After all, Iran is not yet an operational nuclear power, and there is no point in presuming any possibilities for a scientific investigation. Nonetheless, in national survival matters, prudence should take innovative forms, and the July 14, 2015 Vienna Pact (JCPOA) concerning Iranian nuclear weapons will not constrain Tehran indefinitely.
In the very early nineties, the Democrats were as obsessed with cocaine as they are now are with Russia. The cocaine in question was alleged to have been bought by Vice President Dan Quayle. The 1992 election was coming up. The decades of corruption, slime, and lies by the Clintons were about to pay off.
President George H.W. Bush was enjoying high approval ratings. Bill Clinton would weasel and claw his way to the front of the line largely because the election seemed like a lot of cause for the Democrats.
“Merkel will govern…but her government will be under the heading ‘this will not be long.’ This refers to Merkel, and also to the fact that in many parts of the country there is the feeling that ‘this’ should not continue.” — Kurt Kister, Editor-in-Chief, Süddeutsche Zeitung.
“The CDU retains control of the beautiful-sounding, but in fact powerless, Ministry of Economy, the unpopular Ministry of Health, the crisis-prone Ministry of Defense and the shadowy existence of ministerial posts in the Chancellery, for education and agriculture. That is little for the strongest faction in the Bundestag.” — Editorial, Münchner Merkur.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made headlines on Jan. 2 by saying that President Donald Trump has decided to stop funding UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency until the Palestinians agree to come to the negotiating table. On Jan. 16, the president—on the advice of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—agreed to transfer $60 million for now, as opposed to slashing all of the funding overnight. But the other $65 million of this usual installment has been held in reserve. The total amount of money paid to UNRWA by American taxpayers is approximately $370 million per year.
On Wednesday night Israelis received yet another demonstration of the country’s desperate need for legal reform.
The media in Israel – like their counterparts in the US – tout themselves as democracy’s watchdogs. But on Wednesday night, we saw once again that our fiercest journalists are actually the lapdogs of our unelected legal fraternity, whose members share their hatred for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their general attachment to the ideological Left.