The Obama administration has promised arms to the moderate rebel opposition but is finding it difficult to determine who qualifies. It must ensure that desperately needed humanitarian aid reaches the Christian communities — in Iraq, American aid was withheld from the Christians and other non-Muslims by local authorities. Also, because the Christians fear religious persecution in refugee camps outside Syria, they have largely not registered as refugees with the U. In determining whether to accept Syrian refugees, it should take into account the fact that most Christian refugees are not U.
A hundred years ago, they accounted for about 30 percent of the Middle East. Now they are down to less than 3 percent, with the largest of their communities found in Egypt and Syria, where they account for 10 percent of the national populations. They, along with their ancient churches and monasteries, are spread in villages and neighborhoods throughout these two countries and are not enclaved in any particular spot.
Though the Middle East Christians are often members of distinct ethnic groups, such as Copts, Assyrians, and Armenians, they are not tribal. Many no doubt will come to the West to escape persecution. Hundreds of thousands already have. Their exodus from the Middle East will mean, apart from purely religious concerns, that that region will be deprived of an historically important moderating influence and the experience of living among non-Muslims.
Current U. This is a dangerous policy. It has led to ongoing, brutal religious cleansing campaigns in Somalia, Iraq, and Syria, and brutal purges in Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Egypt.
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Such extreme intolerance is spreading, even in some moderate Muslim countries. That is, wherever there is religious persecution, for example in China and Vietnam, and in Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, persecuted groups vary; but there are, everywhere, Christians among them. There are three main reasons for the persecution. In some extremely secular countries, particularly atheistic communist and post-communist regimes such as North Korea, China, and Turkmenistan, Christians are viewed by authorities as a threat because their ultimate allegiance is to God.
In some Muslim countries — Saudi Arabia, which bans all churches, is a prominent example— their beliefs or even their mere presence is viewed as a blasphemy, an offense against Allah. SHEA : The numbers are soft, mainly because we lack documentation from the persecuted communities and their churches.
Persecuted: The Global Assault On Christians
Christians killed for their religious identity and beliefs probably numbered a couple of thousand over the past year, with many of those from Nigeria and Syria. But many thousands more are persecuted short of martyrdom, through physical assaults, maiming, rape, imprisonment, torture, kidnappings, banning or thwarting of religious practice, etc. The discrepancy in numbers often occurs because of definitional differences of who is a martyr.
Behind the Iron Curtain, underground human-rights groups, labor unions, intellectuals, and religious leaders kept records of atrocities and smuggled them to the Free World. In Latin America, during the s dictatorships, the Catholic Church played an important role in documenting human-rights abuses.
There is a great need for human-rights training and for record keeping of religious persecution in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and elsewhere today. This would be a terrific project for Notre Dame University, a law-school clinic, or some other institution with the capacity to partner with various churches abroad and teach such human-rights documentation workshops to talented and committed lay people.
In fact, the U. Russia itself, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan are assessed as severe religious-freedom violators. Belarus is recognized to violate religious freedom but not as severely as those others, according to USCIRF assessments.
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Typically in these countries today, the Orthodox Church is favored, while other churches and religions are severely restricted or repressed. SHEA : No.
Soviet bloodshed against religious believers and the destruction of their churches was egregious and systematic. Belarus is considered to be the most religiously repressive country on the European continent today, but it achieves this through a web of regulations and restrictive laws regarding which churches can be built, what literature can be read, and who can preach. Commission on International Religious Freedom. And it is often ignored, by the secular media, political leaders, even religious leaders.
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Their heroic examples are inspirational. Their stories should remind all our citizens how critically important religious freedom is, how central it is to our other freedoms, and how it needs to be defended. Lives could be saved, prisoners could be freed, if only our leaders felt pressure to speak up.
Now our diplomats and contractors, in order to worship in community as Christians there, must do so secretly, like in Saudi Arabia, the only other country without a single church. State Department knew about this church closure and reported on it, but failed to speak up.
This betrays our fundamental ideals as a nation. It says we care about trade and security, but not about the most fundamental rights we claim to cherish.
By contrast, a decade ago, the Christians and African traditional believers of southern Sudan were facing genocidal religious persecution. As a direct result of deft and persistent diplomacy, led by the United States, that violence was stopped.
Dying for Christianity: millions at risk amid rise in persecution across the globe
This great diplomatic achievement came about through grassroots pressure, mainly from American churches. More articles. Previous articles. There have been an appalling 2, incidents documented against women—and as Curry makes clear, this is likely only a fraction of those actually raped or harassed. Please, come to BreakPoint. Share it with your friends and neighbors—in person and on social media. Get it into the hands of your pastor. Send the link to your representatives in Congress. And bring it to your prayer group.
Make a point of praying for the persecuted, that God would give His people endurance, and that He would work all things together for good—even in the midst of suffering and tragedy.
‘Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians’
Get involved in interceding for the global Christian community. Many are experiencing extreme persecution, and yet their light shines brightly. Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully.
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