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Persecution of Christians in the modern era

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In a number of countries, Christians are subject to restrictions on freedom of religion, and they are also the victims of communal violence and hate crimes.

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Which is the most persecuted religious group in the world today? The answer in terms of sheer numbers and sheer horror might surprise you. It’s Christians, specifically Christians living in Muslim-majority countries, countries where Christians often preceded Muslims by centuries. I’m not talking about “War on Christmas” type harassment; I’m talking about “know your place or we’re going to kill you” persecution. Astonishingly, the Western mainstream media barely acknowledge what is happening. Let’s look closer at this issue. It tells us a lot about the world we’re living in. One hundred years ago, 20% of North Africa and the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, was Christian. Today, Christians make up 4% of the population. Much of that decline has occurred in the last decade. In essence Muslims are rendering North Africa and the Middle East free of Christians. Take Egypt, for example, my ancestral homeland. In just the past two years, tens of thousands of Christian Copts have left Egypt. And many others want to leave, but they simply cannot afford to. Why they want to leave is no mystery. On New Year’s Day 2011, the Two Saints Church in Alexandria was bombed, leaving 23 Copts dead and 97 injured. In recent years dozens of Coptic churches have been attacked, many burned to the ground. In August 2013 alone, the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters attacked and destroyed some 80 churches. Unfortunately, Egypt is more the rule than the exception. Hundreds of Nigerian churches have been destroyed in recent years, with especially deadly attacks reserved for Christmas and Easter church services, leaving dozens dead or mutilated. Churches have been bombed or burned in Iraq, Syria, and just about every place in the Middle East where churches still exist except Israel. Christian businesses have been torched, Christian girls have been kidnapped, sold as child brides or slaves, and had acid thrown in their faces for not being veiled. Anyone born a Muslim who converts to Christianity faces jail and possibly execution. The list of fresh atrocities by Muslims against Christians grows longer almost every day. Even in Muslim countries often portrayed as “moderate” -- Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan -- Christian minorities are under legal pressure not to build churches or evangelize. The Christians in these Muslim countries are often identical to their co-citizens in race, ethnicity, national identity, culture, and language; there is no political dispute between the Christians and Muslims, no land dispute. Vastly outnumbered and politically marginalized, these Christians simply wish to worship in peace. Instead they are hounded and attacked. So, then, why is this happening? And why is the media making so little mention of it? The first question is easy to answer. Christians are being persecuted in Muslim countries because they’re Christians, or as the Quran puts it, “infidels,” that is, non-Muslims, who are regarded by many fundamentalist Muslims as inferior. As a fundamentalist interpretation of the holy books of Islam has grown in the last fifty or so years, Christians have suffered. And in recent years, they have suffered terribly. I document this in my book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians. If this were happening to any other group besides Christians, it would be the human rights tragedy of our time. There would be loud worldwide calls for action. But the silence in the mainstream Western media is, as they say, almost deafening. Why? Because Muslim persecution of Christians throws a wrench in the media’s narrative that “Muslim violence is a product of Muslim grievance.” That grievance is, first and foremost, portrayed as the sin of European colonialism and alleged American imperialism. In the Muslim world’s mind, those two sins are personified by the Jewish State of Israel, a nation the Muslim world believes was forced upon it by the colonial powers of Europe following World War II and is currently supported by the United States. Much of the Western world and the Western media have largely bought at least some of this narrative. Here’s how it works: Because Israel, with the backing of the United States, is stronger than its Muslim neighbors, the media, while not defending Islamic terrorism, often portray terror against Israel, America, and even Europe as the actions of understandably angry “underdogs” fighting for what they deem “justice.” But what happens to this media narrative when Islamic terror is directed against a minority weaker than them -- in this case, the millions of indigenous Christians throughout the Islamic world? The answer is that, rather than abandon this narrative, the media just don’t report Muslim persecution of Christians except for the most sensational cases. That’s why you probably don’t know that there are barely any Christians living in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, nations where Christianity once thrived. Or, that this is happening in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and even Lebanon. So, yes, Christians are indeed the most persecuted religious group in the world today. But reporting it would violate the media’s narrative of Christians as persecutors and Muslims as victims. I’m Raymond Ibrahim, author of the Al-Qaeda Reader, for Prager University.


Anti-Christian persecutions



The Foreign Missionary Society Act of 1962 put a limit on the number of churches constructed. Students in military training were forbidden from praying unlike Muslims.[1]


In Muslim-majority Zanzibar, part of Tanzania there have been numerous attacks on churches. A bishop condemned the lack of action by the government.[2][unreliable source?][3][unreliable source?]



An angry mob of Indigenous peoples destroyed the only Protestant church in the remote village of Chucarasi in the Bolivian Andes after beating a congregational elder unconscious. Villagers apparently attacked their Christian neighbors because they blamed them for a hail storm that damaged local crops.[4][not in citation given]


The killing of the priest Faustino Gazziero in 2004.[5] CNTV program The Comedy Club parodies of Jesus,[6] the burning of the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (national Patroness),[7] and the subsequent mock of the faithful's grief in a nationwide newspaper.[8]

Since 2015, twelve churches have been burned in southern Chile, 10 Catholic ones and two Protestant ones. Attacks are supposedly from the Mapuche indigenous people, who are campaigning to reclaim ancestral lands, according to authorities.[9]

"We are going to burn all churches." Thus declared the note left at the ruins of the Christian Union Evangelical church in Ercilla, Chile, after an arson attack on March 31, 2016.[10]


Government regulations aimed at curbing the growth of Christian house churches in Cuba.[11]

United States

Church burning was happening too often in Alabama.[12][not in citation given] According to a review published in Washington Post, the predators were young white and poor males. [13][not in citation given]

In 2015, anti-christian grafiti was painted outside the St. Nikolas Serbian Orthodox Church church.[14][not in citation given]



Some estimates put the number of Christians in China at 97 million, but it has been claimed in 2019 that 20 million of them faced persecution, including crackdowns, raids and church closures. Claims of persecution of Chinese Christians occurred in both official and unsanctioned churches.[15]


A Christian girl who was bruised and burnt by Hindu nationalists during anti-Christian violence in Orissa in August 2008.
A Christian girl who was bruised and burnt by Hindu nationalists during anti-Christian violence in Orissa in August 2008.


North Korea

According to the Christian Open Doors organization, North Korea is the leader among countries who persecute Christians.[16][unreliable source?]


Christians in Pakistan are a minority, making up 1.6% of the population, and religious minorities are frequently discriminated against.[17] The Pakistan blasphemy law mandates that blasphemy of the Qur'an is to be punished. Critics of the laws say that Christians like Asia Bibi are sentenced to death with only hearsay for evidence of alleged blasphemy.[18] At least a dozen Christians have been given death sentences,[19] and half a dozen of them have been murdered after being accused of violating blasphemy laws. In 2005, 80 Christians were behind bars due to these laws.[20]

Christians in Pakistan have been murdered in outbreaks of communal violence, such as the 2009 Gojra riots, and they have been targeted by militant groups, with the Peshawar church attack killing 75 Christians in Peshawar in 2013,[21] and the Lahore church bombings killing 15 Christians in 2015.[22][23] The campaign of violence by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has been described as a genocide.[24][25][26]

Sri Lanka

Christians in Sri Lanka are a minority, making up around 7.4% of the population as of the 2011 census. [27] The Christian population faces sporadic outbreaks of violence and hostility[28][29] by extremists. Churches have been vandalized by mobs organized by supporters of religious nationalist groups, such as Hindu supporters of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Buddhist supporters of Bodu Bala Sena and Islamist supporters of National Thowheeth Jama'ath.[30][31]

Middle East

Former Lebanese president Amine Gemayel stated in 2011 that Christians had become the target of genocide after dozens of Christians were killed in deadly attacks in Egypt and Iraq.[32]

According to Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, in the hundred years leading up to 2010 the Middle East's Christian population dwindled from 20% to less than 5%. Oren argues that with the exception of Israel, Christians in the Middle East have endured severe political and cultural hardships: in Egypt, Muslim extremists have subjected Coptic Christians to beatings and massacres, resulting in the exodus of 200,000 Copts from their homes; in Iraq, 1,000 Christians were killed in Baghdad between the years 2003 and 2012 and 70 churches in the country were burned; in Iran, converts to Christianity face the death penalty and in 2012 Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death; in Saudi Arabia, private Christian prayer is against the law; in the Gaza Strip, half of the Palestinian Christian population has fled since Hamas seized power in 2007 and Gazan law forbids public displays of crucifixes; in the West Bank, the Christian population has been reduced from 15% to less than 2%.[33]


In Egypt, the government does not recognize religious conversions from Islam to Christianity.[34] Foreign missionaries are allowed in the country if they restrict their activities to social improvements and refrain from proselytizing. The Coptic Pope Shenouda III was internally exiled in 1981 by President Anwar Sadat, who then chose five Coptic bishops and asked them to choose a new pope. They refused, and in 1985 President Hosni Mubarak restored Pope Shenouda III, who had been accused of fomenting interconfessional strife. Particularly in Upper Egypt, the rise in extremist Islamist groups such as the Gama'at Islamiya during the 1980s was accompanied by increased attacks on Copts and on Coptic Orthodox churches; these have since declined with the decline of those organizations, but still continue. The police have been accused of siding with the attackers in some of these cases.[35]

In April 2006, one person was killed and twelve injured in simultaneous knife attacks on three Coptic Orthodox churches in Alexandria.[36]

Since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt's Coptic Christians have been the target of increasing opposition and discrimination.[citation needed] In 2011, anti-Christian activity in Egypt included church burnings, protests against the appointment of a Coptic Christian governor in Qena, and deadly confrontations with the Egyptian army. On television Islamists referred to Christians as heretics and said they should be made to pay the jizya tax. A Coptic priest accused Islamists in the country of massacring uninfected pigs predominantly owned by Copts during a swine flu scare: "They killed these innocent pigs just because they thought they violated their religion in some way." In October 2011 a draft resolution passed by the European Parliament accused Egypt of persecuting the country's Christian population. By mid-2012 10,000 Christians had fled the country.[37][38][39]

In July 2012, Dahshur's entire Christian community, which some estimate to be as many as a hundred families, fled to nearby towns due to sectarian violence. The violence began in a dispute over a badly ironed shirt, which in turn escalated into a fight in which a Christian burned a Muslim to death, which in turn sparked a rampage by angry Muslims, while the police failed to act. At least 16 homes and properties of Christians were pillaged, some were torched, and a church was damaged during the violence.[40]

From 2011 to 2013, more than 150 kidnappings, for ransom, of Christians had been reported in the Minya governorate.[41]

There is a long-running tension between Christians and Muslims in areas like Minya over whether churches may appear in the village. It is possible, legally speaking, for Christians to get a permit for built churches. However, civilian mobs are liable to attack the building if one's house is thought of as an unlicenced or not-yet-licensed church, or if one is thought to be building a new church. Some Muslim villagers see churches as unclean. [42]

In 2016, Egyptian poet Fatima Naoot was convicted of "contempt of religion" and sentenced to three years in jail for a 2014 Facebook post criticising animal killing during Eid.[43][44] Four Coptic Christian juveniles were convicted of "contempt of religion" the next month, with three of them sentenced to five years in prison.[45]

Iraq and Syria

The consolidation of power in the hands of Shiite Islamists in Iraq since the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime has been to the detriment of Iraq's Assyrian and Armenian Christian communities. Friction between rival sects in Iraq has frequently resulted in violence being directed against Christians in the country. Consequently, there has been a flight of Christians from some areas to Europe and to the United States. Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled Iraq, such that the Christian population, which may have been as high as 1.4 million prior to the Iraq War, has dropped to 500,000, with numbers continuing to decline. Between 2003 and 2012 more than 70 churches were bombed. In 2007 Al Qaeda militants killed a young priest in Mosul, and in 2010 gunmen massacred 53 Assyrian Christians in a Baghdad church.[39][46][47][48]

During the Syrian Civil War and the spillover into Iraq, persecution of Christians by ISIL and other militant groups has been ongoing. The Fall of Mosul and the Assyrian town of Qaraqosh in the 2014 ISIL advance in Iraq led to an estimated 100,000 Assyrian Christian civilians being displaced. After the fall of Mosul, ISIL demanded Assyrian Christians in the city to convert to Islam, pay tribute, or face execution.[49] ISIL begun marking homes of Christian residents with the letter nūn for Nassarah ("Christian").[50][51] Thousands of Christians, Yazidis (the latter whom were given only the choice of conversion or death) and other, mostly Shi'a Muslims (whom ISIL consider to be apostates) have abandoned their homes and land. The destruction of cultural heritage by ISIL has included the Mosque of the Prophet Jonah, revered in all Abrahamic faiths.


A vandalized Christian graveyard in Bethlehem. The text says "Death to Arabs" in Hebrew.
A vandalized Christian graveyard in Bethlehem. The text says "Death to Arabs" in Hebrew.

In Jerusalem, there have been instances of Christian churches and monasteries being vandalized with spray-painted offensive remarks against Christianity, including death threats. These are believed to be price tag attacks by extremist settlers.[52][53]

In Tel Aviv in 2008, three teenagers burned hundreds of Christian Bibles.[54][55]

A number of Ultra-Orthodox/Haredi youth have reportedly spat at Christian clergymen. Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, of Jerusalem's Armenian Patriarchate, says he personally has been spat at about 50 times in the past 12 years.[56][57] The Anti-Defamation League has called on the chief Rabbis to speak out against the interfaith assaults.[58] Father Goosan, Chief Dragoman of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, stated that, "I know there are fanatical Haredi groups that don't represent the general public but it's still enraging. It all begins with education. It's the responsibility of these men's yeshiva heads to teach them not to behave this way".[59] In January 2010, Christian leaders, Israeli Foreign ministry staff, representatives of the Jerusalem municipality and the Haredi community met to discuss inter-faith tolerance. The Haredi Community Tribunal of Justice published a statement condemning harassment of Christians, stating that it was a "desecration of God's name." Several events were planned in 2010 by the Orthodox Yedidya congregation to show solidarity with Christians and improve relations between the Haredi and Christian communities of Jerusalem.[60][61]

In July 2012, a former member of the Knesset, Michael Ben-Ari, who supports Kahanism, videotaped himself tearing up a copy of the New Testament and throwing it in the trash. Ben-Ari referred to it as a "despicable book" that should be "in the dustbin of history".[62] In response, the American Jewish Committee urged the Knesset to censure Ben-Ari, while a spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned Ben-Ari's actions.[63]


Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported that state-controlled Palestinian media frequently demonize religions like Judaism and Christianity. PMW translated into English a children's television program aired twice in 2012 it said featured a young girl saying Jews and Christians are "cowardly and despised."[64]

West Bank

In 2002, a mob of Palestinian Muslims burned Christian property in Ramallah.[65] A dossier submitted in 2005 to Church leaders in Jerusalem listed 93 incidents of abuse alleged to have been committed against Palestinian Christians by Muslim extremists and 140 cases of gangs allegedly stealing Christian land in the West Bank.[66] In May 2012 a group of 100 Muslims attacked Taybeh, a Christian village in the West Bank.[67]


In 2007, the Gaza Strip had a tiny Christian minority of 2,500–3,000. The Hamas overthrow of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza during that year was accompanied by violent attacks against Christians and Christian holy sites by Islamic militants. A Catholic convent and Rosary Sisters school were ransacked, with some Christians blaming Hamas for the attack. In September 2007 Christian anxiety grew after an 80-year-old Christian woman was attacked in her Gaza home by a masked man who robbed her and called her an infidel.[68][69] That attack was followed less than a month later by a deadly assault on the owner of the only Christian bookstore in Gaza City. Muslim extremists were implicated as being behind the incident.[70] The library of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was bombed in 2008 by gunmen who, according to guards at the site, asked why the guards worked for "infidels."[71]

In 2011, the Christian population of Gaza Strip was less than 1,400. A member of the Catholic faith told The Guardian he was stopped by a Hamas official and told to remove a wooden crucifix he was wearing.[72]

Saudi Arabia

The human rights advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) told the Christian Post that 35 Christian Ethiopians – men and women – were violently arrested in Jeddah in December 2011 while holding a prayer meeting in their home. The prisoners complained of being persecuted on account of their faith and of being pressured to convert to Islam, and the women reported undergoing a humiliating strip search. According to the ICC, one prisoner said, "The Muslim preacher [that was sent by officials to speak to the prisoners] vilified Christianity, denigrated the Bible and told us that Islam is the only true religion."[73]



Anti-Christian graffiti in Tampere, Finland
Anti-Christian graffiti in Tampere, Finland

On 6 June 1992, the Fantoft Stave Church, a wooden structure originally built in 1150 in Fortun and moved to Bergen in 1883, was burnt down.[74] At first the fire was attributed to lightning and electrical failure. In January 1993 Varg Vikernes, also known as "Count Grishnackh", was interviewed by a local journalist in his apartment decorated with 'Nazi paraphernalia, weapons and Satanic symbols'. Vikernes, at the time a proponent of White nationalism, social conservatism, survivalism and his Neo-völkisch ideology, declared that he wanted to blow up Blitz House and Nidaros Cathedral. He has publicly supported black metal fans burning down eight churches in Norway. He used a photo of the charred remnants of one church taken soon after the fire on his band Burzum's EP entitled Aske (Norwegian for ashes). Following his statement, the Norwegian authorities began to clamp down on black metal musicians.[75]

In 1994, Vikernes was found guilty of murder, arson and possession of illegal weapons (including explosives) and given the maximum sentence under Norwegian law of 21 years in prison.[75] He was released in 2009.[76]

The following is a partial list of Norwegian Christian church arsons in 1992 by anti-Christian groups[citation needed] reported by English-language media sources:


Many attacks, arsons and acts of vandalism against churches in Russia are reported each year.[82][83] The acts of vandalism are often accompanied by Satanic symbolism and graffiti.[84] In many instances, icons and crosses are burned and vandalized, and swastikas and Satanic symbols are painted on the walls of the churches (while in other attacks on churches in Russia they can be understood as more simple robberies).[83] Some of the attacks on the churches, such as the cutting down of crosses, appear to be conducted by groups organized online and by local youth.[85]

See also


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External links

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