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In Africa and the Middle East, Human Rights Groups Silent on Christian Persecution

Christians are under attack in the Middle East. Now Nigeria has also entered the fray with Islamic militants, Boko Haram, fanning the flames of ethno-religious conflict. Detonating bombs at church sites in Abuja, over the past Christmas holidays, killing and injuring hundreds of Christians, they are doing their damndest to create an Islamic state. In their mission, they continued with bomb and gun attacks at 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, Saturday Dec 31st. 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 and those yearning for a truly democratic state. In a country of 80 million people, 90% Muslims and 8% Christians, the majority feels threatened by a few Christians who wish to worship freely. The newly elected Military Council and their military courts have allegedly convicted more civilians than were convicted under dictator, Hosni Mubarak, over the past 30 years.

Leader in the pack, Iran has set the precedent for persecuting Christians, having had extensive experience with the Bahai’s and the Kurds. For some years the Iranian authorities have been arresting those suspected of evangelizing and converting people from Islam to Christianity. Targeting religious holidays for maximum effect, both Egypt and Iran are escalating the conflict by terrorizing bloggers, prohibiting the distribution of Bibles and the attendance of mass in Farsi. With only 1% of Iranians classified Christian, Iran is increasingly making their lives a living hell in the country of their birth driving many of them out. 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 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 numbers of Christians have declined from around 10% in the middle of the 20th century to 5% around 2000, to 3% (800 000) in 2008. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to surrounding countries and the entire Jewish population has left. Tolerance of Christians is dwindling in a country where Christians have lived for more than 2000 years. The terrorist bloodbath that killed 62 Christians and wounded 60 on 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 Obama administration, the European Union, the United Nations, 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 Asad 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 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 be regret what they wish for. It no longer has any influence over its former ally, Syria as it butchers its civilians!

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