Anti-Christian terror is everyone’s concern

People of all faiths have a responsibility to speak out against Christian persecution.

The persecution of any religious minority anywhere by anyone is an evil injustice. It requires all persons of conscience to speak out and, when possible, take action.

The upcoming 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht makes this an auspicious time to raise awareness about the contemporary violence targeting religious minorities and their places of worship. Of particular concern are attacks against Christian minorities that have occurred with alarming frequency from Syria to Egypt, from Iraq to Pakistan, and from Kenya to Sudan.

November 9 marks 75 years since the pogrom against Jews committed by mobs throughout the Nazi Reich. Often called Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass,” when rioters killed or injured hundreds of Jews; burned over 1,000 synagogues; destroyed 7,000 Jewish-owned shops and businesses; vandalized cemeteries and schools, and; sent 30,000 Jews to German concentration camps. It marked a turning point in the escalating campaign of persecution culminating in the Holocaust.

These events, seared into Jewish collective memory, make us doubly aware—and duty bound—to raise our voices when the deadly brew of religious bigotry and wanton violence are mixed.

Today in Syria, a once thriving Christian population—a community nearly as ancient as that country’s once great Jewish community—has been depopulated by 25 percent, according an estimate the Patriarch Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham shared with the BBC.

In September, The Associated Press reported that Syrian Christians in Maaloula—a community dating to the birth of Christianity and that still speaks Aramaic—were driven out or forcibly converted to Islam by rebels aligned with al-Qaeda.

“It is chaos, it is violence, it is blood, it is death. Life has been paralyzed. We have lost everything,” said Archbishop Theophile Georges Kassab of Homs.

In Egypt, some supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi last summer unleashed their rage against that nation’s Christians, a historic community constituting 20 percent of the country’s population. Mobs burned dozens of Christian schools, convents, monasteries, institutions, and churches of any, and all Christian denominations. And just days ago, gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire outside a Coptic Christian church during a wedding, murdering four, including an 8-year-old girl.

“It never happened before in history that such a big number of churches were attacked on one day,” Bishop Thomas, a Coptic Orthodox bishop in Assiut told Al Jazeera. “We normally used to have attacks once a month or so.”

As Kristallnacht teaches, the burning of houses of worship can be a red alert that worse is yet to come. September saw the horrific Taliban bombing of Anglican worshippers in Pakistan, which took 85 lives, and, according to accounts shared by witnesses, the targeting for murder of Kenyan Christians—deliberately separated from others in a chilling reminder of Nazi “selections”—by al Shabaab terrorists in a Nairobi shopping mall.

Attacks like these have contributed to a decline in the Christian population in the Middle East and North Africa from 9.5 percent to 3.8 percent of the total population from 1910 to 2010, according to a Pew Forum report on Global Christianity.

Tellingly, Israel is the only Middle East country where the Christian population has grown in the last half century, from 34,000 to 158,000, in large measure, according to many observers, because of the religious freedoms enjoyed there.

As a Jew, I’m proud of the status of religious minorities in the Jewish state. As an American, I’m especially proud to live in a society where people of different faiths (and no faith) share the values of tolerance and coexistence. Despite isolated though sometimes deadly instances of religiously-inspired terror during the past few decades, ours is a nation where no Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, or person of any other faith must live in fear because of who they are.

It is time to sound the alarm about the religious persecutions of Christians and others. Let us raise our voices, and call on our elected representatives to take action. People of all faiths should support passage of H.R.301, legislation that would direct our President to appoint a State Department Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.

The bill will facilitate U.S government responses to human rights violations, combat acts of religious intolerance and incitement targeting religious minorities, and help address the needs of religious minorities.

Further, we must demand that international institutions designed to protect human rights, especially the United Nations, must actually do so without prejudice.

For people of conscience, for people of all faiths, now is not the time to be silent.

Steven B. Nasatir is president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

  • socom47

    Throughout the Middle East hundreds of Christian churches have burned, blown up, and destroyed. Thousands of Christians have been murdered, tortured, or relocated. We have done nothing about this and the world has largely ignored the situation. It would appear that the persecution of Christians is OK while if even one Mosque in the west was destroyed the world would be up in arms. Why have we been so passive about this evil persecution of Christians. Where is the Catholic church, where are our civil rights leaders, why are we ignoring this terrible situation?

  • socom47

    Throughout the Middle East hundreds of Christian churches have burned, blown up, and destroyed. Thousands of Christians have been murdered, tortured, or relocated. We have done nothing about this and the world has largely ignored the situation. It would appear that the persecution of Christians is OK while if even one Mosque in the west was destroyed the world would be up in arms. Why have we been so passive about this evil persecution of Christians. Where is the Catholic church, where are our civil rights leaders, why are we ignoring this terrible situation?

  • leibowde84

    “if even one Mosque in the west was destroyed the world would be up in arms.”

    - Are you implying that the persecution of Christianity is occurring in the west as well? Because, I have not seen that at all.

  • leibowde84

    “if even one Mosque in the west was destroyed the world would be up in arms.”

    - Are you implying that the persecution of Christianity is occurring in the west as well? Because, I have not seen that at all.

  • LeeWhitt

    “It is chaos, it is violence, it is blood, it is death.”

    Yep, the very definition of patriarchal, fundamentalist religion of all flavors.

  • LeeWhitt

    “It is chaos, it is violence, it is blood, it is death.”

    Yep, the very definition of patriarchal, fundamentalist religion of all flavors.

  • nkri401

    socom,

    I’m sympathetic but what do you suggest? Certainly not another Crusade.

    When all the leaders are voicing against violence and willing to act non-violently, may be something will change.

    I can imagine…

  • nkri401

    socom,

    I’m sympathetic but what do you suggest? Certainly not another Crusade.

    When all the leaders are voicing against violence and willing to act non-violently, may be something will change.

    I can imagine…

  • WmarkW

    Where is the King of Saudi Arabia? Where is Ayatollah Khameini? Where is the Organization for Islamic Cooperation? Where is the Muslim Brotherhood? All those who want us to accept the belief in peaceful Islam, where are their voices when Islam itself is the problem?

  • WmarkW

    Where is the King of Saudi Arabia? Where is Ayatollah Khameini? Where is the Organization for Islamic Cooperation? Where is the Muslim Brotherhood? All those who want us to accept the belief in peaceful Islam, where are their voices when Islam itself is the problem?

  • nkri401

    I hear you – But just like here in USA, they have their constituency, I’m afraid.

    Also, just like Christianity, Islam itself is not the problem. Again just like Christianity, certain fundamentalist factions are the problem, fed by poverty and the lack of opportunity.

  • nkri401

    I hear you – But just like here in USA, they have their constituency, I’m afraid.

    Also, just like Christianity, Islam itself is not the problem. Again just like Christianity, certain fundamentalist factions are the problem, fed by poverty and the lack of opportunity.

  • di89

    - Are you implying that the persecution of Christianity is occurring in the west as well? Because, I have not seen that at all.

    Well, there was that gal in the grocery store who said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas…and I heard from someone who knew someone who knew someone whose sister’s neighbor’s mailman’s niece got a C in English when her essay on why Jesus loves the little children didn’t get accepted as a seventh grade research paper. Doesn’t that count?

  • di89

    - Are you implying that the persecution of Christianity is occurring in the west as well? Because, I have not seen that at all.

    Well, there was that gal in the grocery store who said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas…and I heard from someone who knew someone who knew someone whose sister’s neighbor’s mailman’s niece got a C in English when her essay on why Jesus loves the little children didn’t get accepted as a seventh grade research paper. Doesn’t that count?

  • Tony Arnold

    Thanks so much for helping call attention to this frightening global trend! Thank you especially, as a Jew, for standing against the persecution of Christians

  • Tony Arnold

    Thanks so much for helping call attention to this frightening global trend! Thank you especially, as a Jew, for standing against the persecution of Christians

  • haveaheart

    The trick here is to keep the focus on genuinely persecuted Christians worldwide and not to confuse their plight with the whining insistence by Christians in the U.S. that their religion is being marginalized.

    What’s happening globally is tragic. American Christians who complain that their rights are being infringed by some imaginary “war on Christianity” because people don’t say “Merry Christmas” in shopping malls anymore are just ridiculous.

  • haveaheart

    The trick here is to keep the focus on genuinely persecuted Christians worldwide and not to confuse their plight with the whining insistence by Christians in the U.S. that their religion is being marginalized.

    What’s happening globally is tragic. American Christians who complain that their rights are being infringed by some imaginary “war on Christianity” because people don’t say “Merry Christmas” in shopping malls anymore are just ridiculous.

  • yellowhouse

    “Also, just like Christianity, Islam itself is not the problem. Again just like Christianity, certain fundamentalist factions are the problem, fed by poverty and the lack of opportunity. . . .”

    This is a little hard to swallow, nkr.

    Islamic law is known, delineated and quantifiable. It also imposes the death penalty on anyone who converts from islam to christianity or blasphemes against Mohammad, the Quran or islam (including christians who express their disbelief in the prophethood of Mohammad by simply openly practicing their own faith), persecutes those who openly proselytize for a non-muslim faith, requires open submission to islamic laws and standards of gender aparteid and effectively makes non-muslims second class citizens vis a vis their muslim neighbors through the institution of dhimma. And there’s nothing “extreme about this interpretation. It’s the one practiced by the two largest most influential islamic states on the planet, in virtual identical form, even though one is Sunni (Saudi Arabia) and the other is Shia (Iran).

  • yellowhouse

    “Also, just like Christianity, Islam itself is not the problem. Again just like Christianity, certain fundamentalist factions are the problem, fed by poverty and the lack of opportunity. . . .”

    This is a little hard to swallow, nkr.

    Islamic law is known, delineated and quantifiable. It also imposes the death penalty on anyone who converts from islam to christianity or blasphemes against Mohammad, the Quran or islam (including christians who express their disbelief in the prophethood of Mohammad by simply openly practicing their own faith), persecutes those who openly proselytize for a non-muslim faith, requires open submission to islamic laws and standards of gender aparteid and effectively makes non-muslims second class citizens vis a vis their muslim neighbors through the institution of dhimma. And there’s nothing “extreme about this interpretation. It’s the one practiced by the two largest most influential islamic states on the planet, in virtual identical form, even though one is Sunni (Saudi Arabia) and the other is Shia (Iran).

  • Don Davenport

    This is Islam and the persecution is the work of devout Muslims following the instructions of their ideology’s founder and so-called “holy book”.

    Am I still allowed to say the truth?

    I’ll await the “What about Timothy McVeigh” replies.

  • Don Davenport

    This is Islam and the persecution is the work of devout Muslims following the instructions of their ideology’s founder and so-called “holy book”.

    Am I still allowed to say the truth?

    I’ll await the “What about Timothy McVeigh” replies.

  • Don Davenport

    This is Islam. The persecution is from devout Muslims following the teachings of their ideology’s founder and so-called “holy book”.

    Am I still allowed to speak the truth?

  • Don Davenport

    This is Islam. The persecution is from devout Muslims following the teachings of their ideology’s founder and so-called “holy book”.

    Am I still allowed to speak the truth?

  • almond40

    Gee, wonder what mysterious group is attacking all those Christians? Martians? Bhuddists? For goodness sakes let’s not name them, that would be so un pc.

  • almond40

    Gee, wonder what mysterious group is attacking all those Christians? Martians? Bhuddists? For goodness sakes let’s not name them, that would be so un pc.

  • understandingislam

    Great that someone, especially in the Washington Post, is finally calling attention to the murderous persecution of Christians. But, why does Mr. Nasatir so carefully avoid telling us just who is doing all that persecution? How can such persecution ever be addressed effectively without naming the persecutors? With Kristallnacht, everyone know that the Nazis were responsible, and nobody was afraid to say so. Here, with the bloody persecution of Christians, people are afraid to tell us the truth about the persecutors, namely, that they are MOSLEMS persecuting Christians in the name of Islam! The fact is that fundamental Islamic doctrine (in the Koran!) considers Christians to be the most monstrous of blasphemers because they believe Jesus is the Son of God. In Islam, such belief is considered the most grievous possible sin, a sin greater than rape, murder or genocide which are “only” sins against people, whereas the belief that God had a son is considered a sin against Allah. This is only sin which Allah will never forgive. Religious Moslems are raised with this attitude toward Christians, and this is why Christians are bitterly persecuted all over the Moslem world.

  • understandingislam

    Great that someone, especially in the Washington Post, is finally calling attention to the murderous persecution of Christians. But, why does Mr. Nasatir so carefully avoid telling us just who is doing all that persecution? How can such persecution ever be addressed effectively without naming the persecutors? With Kristallnacht, everyone know that the Nazis were responsible, and nobody was afraid to say so. Here, with the bloody persecution of Christians, people are afraid to tell us the truth about the persecutors, namely, that they are MOSLEMS persecuting Christians in the name of Islam! The fact is that fundamental Islamic doctrine (in the Koran!) considers Christians to be the most monstrous of blasphemers because they believe Jesus is the Son of God. In Islam, such belief is considered the most grievous possible sin, a sin greater than rape, murder or genocide which are “only” sins against people, whereas the belief that God had a son is considered a sin against Allah. This is only sin which Allah will never forgive. Religious Moslems are raised with this attitude toward Christians, and this is why Christians are bitterly persecuted all over the Moslem world.

  • Tuaussi

    Why would their holy book be considered “so called”? Because it sponsors a belief system different from your own holy book?

  • Tuaussi

    Why would their holy book be considered “so called”? Because it sponsors a belief system different from your own holy book?

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