A new study released last month by the think-tank Civitas paints a startling picture about the state of Christianity in the Middle East. Perhaps the word startling is not the correct descriptor, since the persecution of Christians has been a reality since 33 AD. It is the world’s most blatantly-ignored secret. Open a newspaper and it is a simple matter to locate a story detailing the persecution of various religions, creeds, and lifestyles but nary a whisper of the serial, widespread persecution of the followers of Christ.
The study confirms that the most common threat to Christians living abroad is militant Islam. It points out that in a number of countries, the official penalty for converting to Christianity from Islam is death. In many more countries, there are severe legal ramifications for conversion. One might point out that Islamists are no delineators between conversions to Christianity, Buddhism, Mormonism, et al; that they wage equal-opportunity jihad.
“It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree. A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”
The study cites estimations that 200 million Christians are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.” 200,000,000 people should at least move the needle or generate a Brangelina telethon.
This column has respect for George Clooney. He may buy into social utopianism along with the rest of his Hollywood cadre, but he has put himself on the line for his beliefs and for the people he is trying to help and that garners some respect. But George, baby, the entire region of Darfur held only 6 million souls in 2004, and that was before the conflict really heated up a few years back. If we are to believe that there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis in Western Sudan, then what should we call a worldwide persecution of more than 30x that size?
The Guardian, a British daily paper, ran this story a day before Christmas Eve. It draws the conclusion that Christianity is “close to extinction” in the Middle East, outside of Israel. It bases this prediction on the study’s estimate that, over the past century, half to two-thirds of the region’s Christians have been driven out or killed.
It is a dismal picture, to be sure, but it has ever been thus for Christianity. Throughout history, the lulls in between widespread persecution of Christians have been few and far between. From the Jews and Romans of the 1st century AD to Tamerlane in the 14th century to the atheistic regimes of more recent history, the tale of Christianity is rife with persecution and bloodshed.
The remarkable thing is that no one has been able to rub out the God of the Bible or His adherents. No one. The Gospel and followers of “The Way” have outlived the most oppressive regimes this world has ever seen. The church has thrived in places it should have been strangled. From Saul of Tarsus to the Salafists of today, wherever the blood of martyrs is shed, the Gospel spreads and strengthens. What the article fails to mention is the burgeoning underground ministry of witnessing to Muslims in these countries. Yes, the traditional churches might be dismembered, but the community of believers will remain.
It is interesting to note that in the West, persecution against Christians is not seen as persecution at all. Through the Western, post-Christian eye, it is seen as a form of righteous redistribution. In textbook Alinski fashion, since Christianity has been the foundational worldview of Western civilization, it is now time to tear down the Haves and replace them with the Have-Nots. Nevermind that the Have-Nots in this case have not the slightest interest in preserving anyone’s inalienable rights upon their assumption of power, it’s just nice to see someone besides “dead, white men” get a shot at the apple, eh?
There will never be a U2 concert for the Copts. Susan Sarandon will never join a sit-in for the Assyrian Christians of Northern Iraq. It is not about numbers. There could be two billion Christians suffering persecution worldwide and there would be no more attention to the matter.
It is about optics and ideology. In a post-Christian society, any attempt to eradicate or control primeval morality like biblical Christianity cannot be seen as an entirely bad thing. And so the high-beams will continue to shine on Tibet, Darfur, and “Palestine” while outside of the spotlight millions of believers suffer oppression for the Cross which has been branded onto their hearts and the One who hung there.
Please take a moment today to say a prayer for our brothers and sisters around the globe whom our world has forgotten. Their fate may not be all that different from our own, when all is said and done.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” – John 15:18