I recently watched Schindler’s List again. I cried–again. I may not like Steven Spielberg’s politics, but this movie is one of the most chilling looks at the depravity in man when hate abounds. We think the Holocaust that annihilated 6 million Jews could never happen again, that history could never repeat itself with monsters slaughtering innocent children, women, and men in an attempt to “ethnically cleanse” a town, a region, or a country of a people based strictly on ethnicity or religion.
Imagine if you will going to church on Sunday morning all dressed up and buttoned down. Bible in hand, you joyfully sing songs of praise and worship to God and you hear an inspiring sermon that makes you feel just uncomfortable enough to let you know you’ve been to church. Coming home, you eat your Sunday dinner, and then stretch out to take a lazy afternoon nap. Now imagine, that while you are dozing, you begin to hear strange sounds-the sounds of crying and sobbing from your neighbors. As you wake, you hear in the background names being systematically called out over loudspeakers from the steeples of various churches. In your confusion, you slowly realize the voices on the loudspeakers are monotonously reading from a list–a list that includes your pastor’s name, your friends’ names, your family’s name…your name. As you hesitantly walk out of your home, trembling in fear, you are met by armed military who tell you that because you are a Christian, you must immediately leave town or be shot.
It is happening.
From Syria to Egypt and throughout the Middle East and North Africa, religious cleansing is under way…of Christians.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently said: “The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year.” In our lifetime alone “Christians might disappear altogether from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt.”
- Syria: A Syrian Christian man described the religious cleansing of Qusayr (pop. 40,000) in eastern Syria, previously home to 7000 Christians. “…In late 2011, the Sunni townsmen came and told us to either join them in anti-regime demonstrations or leave the town. If we didn’t, we would be killed,” Fadul Abu Yohanna Kasouhah, a Christian resident of Qusayr, told CSI.According to Fadul, the Sunni Islamists in his village used the loudspeakers from the Mosques to name the Christian families by name and told them to leave. Eventually, the local Sunni extremists were joined by foreign Islamic jihadists and cleansed the town of Christians. The Syrian Orthodox Church has claimed that there is an “ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians” by suspected members of an al-Qaeda-linked group in Homs. Reports indicate that 90 per cent of Christians in the city have fled to Jordan and that their homes have been seized by militants.
- Iraq: According to Raymond Ibrahim, “Iraq was the earliest indicator of the fate awaiting Christians once Islamic forces were liberated from the grip of dictators. In 2003, Iraq’s Christian population was at least one million. Today fewer than 400,000 remain—the result of an anti-Christian campaign that began with the U.S. occupation of Iraq, when countless Christian churches were bombed and countless Christians killed, including by crucifixion and beheading. Since the war began in March 2003, Iraq erupted into sectarian violence, leaving US troops in charge of trying to contain what threatened to become a civil war. The situation turned out to be catastrophic for the Christian community there, as violence against Christians soared, including an attack on a church in Baghdad in October last year, in which 58 congregants were killed.” Up to 900,000 Christians have fled the country since, according to a recent study by Minority Rights Group International.
- Egypt: In September 2012, the Sinai’s small Christian community was attacked and evicted by Al Qaeda linked Muslims. The Coptic Orthodox Church has condemned the “repeated incidents of displacement of Copts from their homes, whether by force or threat. Extremist groups such as Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad pose an additional threat with their goal to introduce strict Sharia law across Egypt. The concerns have prompted an estimated 100,000 Christians to leave Egypt since the uprising. “Christian violence and discrimination may inspire a mass migration of that nation’s Coptic Christian population, which means radical Muslims there will reach their goal. The country is headed down a similar path as Iraq and Afghanistan, Leo concluded. “With what’s going on in Egypt, with the uncertainties that exist, there’s very little incentive for a young Coptic Christian to stay in the county,” Leo told CNSNews. “It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if you saw the same basic trajectory in Egypt that you see in quite a number of other countries which is to say they just get up and they leave.”
- Afghanistan: The USCIRF report also concludes that in Afghanistan “conditions for religious freedom remain problematic, despite gains in freedom of religion or belief since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001”. According to Leo, “ A constitution that was drafted with the help of the United States government has effectively given the Afghan government license to deny religious liberty to people who adhere to minority faiths, including Christianity”.
Thousands upon thousands of Christians throughout the world are struggling to defend their faith amidst growing persecution. We thought the Holocaust could never happen again, but we are seeing a depravity in man that defies imagination, when innocents are tortured and killed–because of their faith.
“Christians, these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. There are organizations and courageous people working on behalf of our Christian family. Christians in the Middle East and North Africa region have long been discriminated against, marginalized, detained, imprisoned, tortured and even killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. Those most at risk are converts from Islam. Often theirs is a silent suffering – cut off from family and Christian fellowship and vulnerable to abuse by State security forces and extremist groups…” (from Middle East Concern)
“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)
Links for more information or to help:
Christian Solidarity Worldwidehttp://www.csw.org.uk/
International Christian Response
Human Rights Watch