A new study published on the eve of the Christmas holiday provides a chilling assessment of the future prospects for a once thriving Middle East Christian community and concludes Christians are suffering more persecution around the world than any other religious group, mainly due to “Islamic oppression.”
Civitas, a conservative-leaning British research organization, on Sunday published the report titled “Christianophobia.” Civitas described some of author Rupert Shortt’s disturbing findings:
Christianity is in serious danger of being wiped out in its biblical heartlands because of Islamic oppression, according to a new report from a leading independent think-tank.
But Western politicians and media largely ignore the widespread persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the wider world because they are afraid they will be accused of racism.
They fail to appreciate that in the defence of the wider concept of human rights, religious freedom is the “canary in the mine”, according to the report.
The refusal of young Christians in the West to become “radicalised” and mount violent protests against the attacks on their faith also helps to explain the “blind spot” about “Christianophobia” in influential liberal Western circles.
The study explains that Christians are more likely to face persecution than any other faith group and that they are especially threatened in Muslim societies. Shortt explains that this oppression is only magnified by already rampant anti-Americanism and “the false belief that Christianity is a ‘Western’ creed.” This, even though the religion was born in the Middle East.
He quotes research findings which show that “between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left or been killed over the past century” and that the threat has only been exacerbated by the rise of militant Islam in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
Shortt takes Western policymakers to task for not exposing the threat. He writes: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”
The study examines Christian persecution in seven countries: Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, Burma, China and India, citing examples such as a Salafist website ‘Guardians of the Faith’, which once wrote: “Being a Muslim girl whose role models are the wives of the Prophet, who were required to wear the hijab, is better than being a Christian girl, whose role models are whores.”
The study also describes past cases in which Christians targeted other faiths, such as in the Lebanese civil war and the Balkan crisis; however, Shortt believes Islam is particularly susceptible to violence. He writes: “There is a theory that the idea of jihad is more deeply embedded in Islam than related notions in the other world religions – and therefore that Islam is more susceptible to violent extremism – because of the martial context in which Islam took root.”
Though the mainstream media rarely report it, one glaring exception to the institutionalized persecution the study describes is Israel, where the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on Sunday published statistics showing that Israeli Christians are both well-educated and prosperous. But even in Israel, they face intimidation from their Muslim neighbors.
Israel National News reports:
When it comes to education, Christian Arabs are among the most successful groups in Israel. In 2011, 64% of the community's high school graduates were eligible for Bagrut matriculation certificates, generally a requirement for entry to university, while among Jews that figure was 59%, and only 48% among Muslims. The CBS statistics also showed that Christian Arabs enjoyed relatively high incomes, and were generally more prosperous than their Muslim neighbors.
But there is concern that the Christian community is shrinking – due to intimidation by their Muslim neighbors. […]
Many Christians have complained of being targeted by Muslims, whom they believe are trying to either drive them out of cities that have traditionally had large Christian populations, or to "persuade" them to convert. In 1999, for example, radical Muslims in Nazareth rioted as they attempted to wrest land from a major Christian shrine to build a mosque. Christians in Bethlehem, too, have complained of being persecuted by Muslims, and being encouraged to leave. In 1946, Bethlehem was 80 percent Christian and Nazareth 60 percent; those numbers are now 20 percent and 30 percent respectively, with the percentage of Christians in the city shrinking every year.
Pro-Palestinian activists consistently blame Israel for the shrinking Christian population in those cities, rather than Islamic extremism and a higher childbirth rate in Muslim families. This, as Palestinian officials and other Muslim organizations accuse Israel of trying to “Judaize” Jerusalem, the location of the most holy site for Jews, the Western Wall.
But the Jerusalem municipality belied that accusation when over the weekend it invited the city’s Christians to come in and collect a free Christmas tree, courtesy of the city of Jerusalem.
Israel’s Jerusalem Development Authority also announced it would help local residents and shop keepers decorate the streets with festive lights around the Old City.