Christians Attacked in Their Ancestral Home — the Middle East

By:  Warren Mass
Christians Attacked in Their Ancestral Home — the Middle East

As the world focuses on Jerusalem’s Old City on this Good Friday, watching the throngs of Christian pilgrims, some bearing wooden crosses, making their way along the cobblestoned Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sorrows) — the path that Jesus walking on his way to His Crucifixion — the followers of Christ continue to suffer persecution for their faith.

However, the plight of Christians in the Middle East has received some media attention. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal for April 16, Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, dashed off an ample list of facts and figures to document just how badly Christians in the Middle East have fared over the past century or longer. A striking revelation: At the turn of the 20th century, Christians made up 26 percent of the Middle East's population, but now comprise less than 10 percent. 

Among the Middle Eastern localities where Christians have suffered attacks, notes Prosor, are the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Damascus, where “Christians who refused to convert to Islam have been kidnapped, shot and beheaded by Islamist opposition fighters.” He also cites Egypt, where “mobs of Muslim Brotherhood members burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way they once obliterated Jewish synagogues.”

Another hotspot for Christians is Iraq, where, Prosor writes: “Terrorists deliberately target Christian worshippers. This past Christmas, 26 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a crowd of worshipers leaving a church in Baghdad's southern Dora neighborhood.”

The anti-Christian turmoil in Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein over ten years ago is reflected in the figures Prosor cites. He notes that during the past 10 years, nearly two-thirds of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have been forced to flee their homes because of the anti-Christian violence. Many emigrated to Syria, which like Iraq under Hussein, was tolerant of Christians. However, they are “once again becoming victims of unrelenting persecution. Syria’s Christian population has dropped from 30 percent in the 1920s to less than 10 percent today.” 

Prosor — who as a representative of the Israeli government would not likely give Assad much credit — did not mention that life for Christians was considerably easier and safer under Assad than it has become since civil war has broken out across Syria.

However, speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press last September, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) described the current conflict in Syria as a clash between the government of Assad, who, Paul said, “has protected Christians for a number of decades,” and al-Qaeda-aligned “Islamic rebels,” whom Paul said “have been attacking Christians.”

“I think the Islamic rebels winning is a bad idea for the Christians, and all of a sudden we’ll have another Islamic state where Christians are persecuted,” Paul said.

In the interview, Paul, who is a strong opponent of U.S. foreign intervention, including U.S. foreign aid, said the United States should pursue a negotiated settlement where “Assad is gone, but some of the same people [from Assad’s government] remain stable,” because, “that would also be good for the Christians.”

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Photo: cathedral in Beirut, Lebanon with mosque in background

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