Christians attacked in the Middle East

2012-01-20 00:00

CHRISTIANS are under attack in the Middle East. Now Nigeria has entered the fray with Islamic militants, Boko Haram, fanning the flames of ethno-religious conflict. Detonating bombs at church sites in Abuja, over the Christmas holidays, killing and injuring hundreds of Christians, they are doing their damnedest to create an Islamic state. In their mission, they continued with attacks on Christians in the North Eastern Yobe and Borno states recently.

In Egypt, 21 Coptic Christians died in a bomb blast as worshippers emerged from the new year's mass in Alexandria on December 31. Although the Minister of the Interior blamed the blast on Al-Qaeda, local citizens blamed militant Muslim groups for inciting religious violence. With the Muslim Brotherhood firmly in control, Egypt's Arab Spring is set to become the Winter of Discontent for Christians.

In a country of 80 million people, 90% Muslims and eight percent Christians, the majority feels threatened by a few Christians who wish to worship freely. The newly elected Military Council and its military courts has allegedly convicted more civilians than were convicted under Hosni Mubarak over the past 30 years.

Leader of the pack, Iran has set the precedent for persecuting Christians, having had extensive experience with the Bahais and the Kurds. For some years, the Iranian authorities have been arresting those suspected of evangelising and converting people from Islam to Christianity. Targeting religious holidays for maximum effect, both Egypt and Iran are escalating the conflict by terrorising bloggers, prohibiting the distribution of Bibles and the attendance of mass in Farsi. With only one percent of Iranians classified as Christian, Iran is increasingly making their lives a living hell in the country of their birth. The ineffectual United Nations claims that about half of the Christian population has fled the country.

With the 2008 bill that mandates "that all male apostates be put to death and all female apostates be imprisoned for life", the survival prospects of Christians is slim. Worse, Ayatollah Khamenei declared house churches a threat to Iran's national security and one of its governors called missionaries a "cultural invasion of the enemy".

Ditto Iraq. The number of Christians has declined from around 10% in the middle of the 20th century to five percent in 2000, to three percent (800 000) in 2008. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to surrounding countries and the entire Jewish population has left.

The terrorist bloodbath that killed 62 Christians and injured 60 in October 2010 at the Our Lady of Deliverance Catholic Church in Baghdad was a continuation of the Jihadi's mission to "exterminate Iraqi Christians" described as an "obscene nest of the polytheists [infidels]".

The international human rights community is conspicuously silent about this genocide. Any­thing remotely smacking of criticism against Muslims propels the Barack Obama administration, the European Union, the UN, the Global Elders, and the left into action. Not so with Christians and the question is why. This same group does not hesitate to single out Israel for condemnation and when one country is singled out for censure, as is routinely done, then the only explanation can be anti-Semitism. Otherwise how do we explain the double standards?

When Syria's Bashar al-Assad declared war against his own citizens killing thousands, the Russell Tribunal gathered in Cape Town to judge whether or not Israel is an apartheid state. Just as Jimmy Kruger was left unmoved by Steve Biko's brutal death, so the atrocities in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, and Syria leave the world's human rights watchdogs cold and mute.

They simply cannot deal with a situation that contradicts their "West versus East" human rights template. Their imperialism paradigm cannot deal with human rights atrocities emanating from post-colonial and Arab countries.

The Global Elders are eerily silent, not to speak of our self-appointed human rights gate-keepers — Zwelinzima Vavi, Zackie Achmat, Ronnie Kasrils, Yasmin Sooka, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Professors Steven Friedman, Farid Esack, Andrew Nash, Judge Dennis Davis, and others.

The tyrannical suppression of the freedom of expression, religion and association of Christians in Muslim countries has escaped their censure. This sanitised form of anti-Semitism feeds into the bipolar view of the "West against the rest". Like Turkey, they will come to regret what they wished for. It no longer has any influence over its former ally, Syria, as it butchers its civilians.

• This article first appeared in Die Burger.

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