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!
Feb 10, 2019 0
At the same time, the Trump administration is readying further possible sanctions on Venezuela, the official said.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro attends a military exercise in Maracaibo. (photo credit: MIRAFLORES PALACE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
WASHINGTON, Feb 8 – The United States is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon leader Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him, a senior White House official said.
The Shalva Band following their final performance on “Rising Star.” Photo: Screenshot.
The Shalva Band has removed itself from the race to represent Israel in this year’s Eurovision competition because some of its members observed Shabbat and would not be able to partake in mandatory rehearsals, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.
The group, made up of eight musicians who have special needs, was one of four finalists in the “Rising Star” singing contest — the winner of which will represent Israel in Eurovision, set to be held in Tel Aviv in May.
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As Birthright Israel reaches its 700,000th participant, certain voices in America have done their best to slander the organization and force it to make drastic changes. Having staffed multiple Birthright trips as a madrich (youth leader), I have had the amazing opportunity to pass on some of the love for Israel that helped change my life.
Local police in Manchester’s Whitefield neighborhood declared the vandalism a criminal act rather than antisemitic.
Protesters hold placards and flags during a demonstration, organised by the British Board of Jewish Deputies for those who oppose anti-Semitism, in Parliament Square in London, Britain, March 26, 2018.. (photo credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)
The Philips Park Jewish cemetery in Manchester, England, was vandalized on Saturday, during which the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Zev Segal, who died last year, was desecrated.
Protestors call for the severing of diplomatic ties with Israel during a march in Cape Town. (photo credit: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS)
A proposed multi-million dollar deal between Israel’s Central Bottling Company (CBC) and South Africa’s biggest dairy producer Clover could be in serious trouble due to heavy pressure from the anti-Israel lobby.
Newly-formed consortium Milco, in which Israel’s Central Bottling Company (CBC) holds a majority, is offering to buy 59.5% of the South African dairy producer.
We need to give the Likud Party some credit for not destroying itself in Tuesday’s internal elections. Given that primaries are the very embodiment of deal-making, political machines and big worker unions voting in lockstep, the results could have been far worse.
When it came to casting a secret ballot, the Likud Party’s registered voters did display some maturity. They weren’t the obedient foot soldiers of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has failed again and again in his machinations.
With elections barely two months away, the greatest challenge facing Israel’s Right emanates neither from the Center nor the Left, but, rather, from within.
Indeed, if recent polls are accurate, several small parties on the Right, most of which may not individually pass the minimum threshold to make it into the next Knesset, could nonetheless win a combined total of 10 to 12 seats, all of which would end up in the dustbin if they fail to run together.
August 2017, white supremacists marched in Charlottesville shouting, “Jews will not replace us”. October 2018, one white supremacist posted on social media that “Jews are taking over the white house”, and that Trump is a puppet of the Jews. Shabbat, the same month, a man enters a synagogue during a Bris celebration and butchers Jewish people who are praying. December 2018, Women’s March leader and Louis Farrakhan (“I’m not an antisemite, I’m an anti-termite”) fan, Tamika Mallory says: “White Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy…”
Henry Ford devoted his life to two passions: making cars and demonizing Jews. When Hitler said, “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration,” he wasn’t referring to his car manufacturing. He was referring to Ford’s anti-Semitic ideology that eventuated in the genocide of six million Jews.
Henry Ford does not deserve to be honored. The question the good people of Dearborn should ask themselves is: What would you do if the performing arts center were named after Jefferson Davis? If the answer is that you would remove Davis’s name, then you should remove Ford’s.
It was reported recently that the USA and the Taliban have reached a peace agreement on Afghanistan that will allow US forces to leave that country 17 years after they invaded it on October, 2001, less than a month after 9/11.
Al Qaeda had used that dysfunctional state as a safe haven and, while there, was able to plan and execute the attacks that took the lives of over 3000 people in. After the West invaded, the Taliban