As we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember the millions of Christians around the world being actively persecuted, from individuals facing apostasy charges in Islamic theocracies to ongoing persecutions of Christians in Egypt; Sudan, Pakistan and Syria (by the Islamic rebels who are John McCain’s “freedom fighters”), to the targeted bombing and killing of 37 Christians in Iraq today, there is not only the War on Christmas culture war here in the West, but flesh and blood War on Christianity in the non-Western world.
In The Guardian, Tom Holland has a good column on the subject:
By the beginning of the 20th century, Christians represented just over 10% of its total population. Even so, had the Middle East remained what it had been for the previous two-and-a-half millennia, a patchwork of different faiths ruled by distant emperors, they might well have clung on to their ancestral lands.
As it was, the replacement of the Ottoman empire by new and fissile nation states spelt long-term disaster for the Christians of the region. Ethnically cleansed completely from Turkey, they lacked what the Jews in due course managed to carve out for themselves: a defensible homeland. Over the course of the 20th century, a combination of political impotence and economic hardship led millions to emigrate. Then, in the early years of the third Christian millennium, came the coup de grace.
It is a bitter irony that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, launched under the aegis of two devoutly Christian leaders, George Bush and Tony Blair, should have heralded what threatens to be the final ruin of Christianity in the Middle East. It was Iraqi Christians, trapped between the militancy of their Muslim compatriots and the studied disinterest of their western co-religionists, who bore the initial brunt of the savagery. Extortion, kidnapping and murder became their daily fare.
The venerable churches of Mesopotamia, ancient even in the days of patriarch Timothy, have suffered a terrible reaping. Since 2003, so it has been estimated by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), almost a million Christians have left Iraq. Those few that remain face an ongoing martyrdom. The warning given in 2010 by an al-Qaida front group, that “the doors of destruction and rivers of blood will be opened upon them”, threatens to become all too real.
Now, in the wake of the Arab spring, the same fate menaces the Christians of Syria. They are doubly excoriated by Islamist fighters: as kuffar and as Assad stooges. The punishment inflicted is terrible. Churches have been attacked; nuns and bishops kidnapped; individual Christians forced at gunpoint to convert to Islam.