While the world’s attention is focused on Hamas’ targeting of Jewish civilians in Israel, Jews are not the only religious minority in the Middle East under fire. The Obama administration’s decisions to pull troops out of Iraq, support Islamists in Syria, back the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, protect the Iranian regime, and back terrorist opposition in Libya have led to the destruction of Christian communities throughout the region.
Christians have come under the heaviest hand in the Middle East in generations thanks to the weakness of the United States. And it is worthwhile remembering that the presence of Christians in the Middle East preceded the creation of Islam by centuries.
Here’s the situation, country by country:
Iraq. The rise of the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIS) has led to the wholesale slaughter or exile of hundreds of thousands of Christians. As Dr. Sebastian Gorka explained on Breitbart News Sunday, “in the last 48 hours, ISIS, which is now called the Islamic State in Mosul, has painted the letter ‘N’ for Nazarene on the houses of all the surviving Christians in the city. ISIS has basically given an ultimatum to all the Christians left: You can either flee or convert to Islam, or we will kill you.” Since 2003, the Christian population of Iraq has dropped from 1.5 million to 400,000. Much of that drop has come in the wake of America’s pullout from Iraq. ISIS is now telling Christians in Mosul to convert, pay a tax, or die. Patriarch Louis Sako said, “For the first time in history, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”
Syria. Thousands upon thousands of Christians have been forced from Syria. According to the UK Independent in late 2012, “it is now the Christians, who have largely sought to remain neutral, who are on the receiving end of abuse and attacks. For many, the choice now is between leaving the country or risking an uncertain and hazardous future.” According to Mother Agnes-Mariam, opposition fighters drove some 80,000 Christians from Homs alone. Altogether some 1.3 million Syrian refugees have left the country since the beginning of the civil war.
Egypt. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt led to a massive spike in persecution of Christians within the country. Coptic Christian churches came under attack; reports from Al Akhbar News emerged stating that in Upper Egypt, “Christians are being beaten, their stores destroyed, and their properties plundered. The attackers are declaring that ‘any Christian who dares to leave his house will be killed’; and the Copts are complaining that the police only arrive after the damage has been completely done.” Only the rise of the Egyptian military – a move opposed by the Obama administration – has kept a lid on attacks on Christians in the country.
Palestinian-Controlled Areas. According to the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, “Under siege and without protection, the Christian population under Palestinian rule has dwindled with each passing year….Even though Hamas denies involvement in the attacks and claims that it is attempting to protect the small, ancient Christian community in Gaza, attacks on the 3,000 Christians residing there have increased since the Muslim terror militia came seized power.” ICEJ warns that the entire Christian community in the Palestinian areas could disappear within the next 15 years. The Palestinian Christian population has plummeted from 15% of the total non-Jewish Palestinian population five decades ago to just 1.5% today.
Iran. Iran has been a disaster area for Christians since the fall of the Shah, but an increasing number of Iranian Christians are fleeing the country now. Saba Farzan, a human rights expert, told Fox News a few weeks ago, “The growing number of Iranian Christians fleeing their homeland to come to Germany should alarm us that Iran’s regime is getting more and more radicalized and repressive – on a daily basis.” Christians have been persecuted in Iran with more and more alacrity as fear of the United States wanes. According to the UK Guardian, the number of Christians fleeing Iran to Germany alone more than doubled from 2008 to 2012.
Libya. The Barnabas Fund reports, “It is becoming increasingly clear that Christianity is no more welcome in Libya after the Arab Spring than under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi before it….In 2013, around 50 Egyptian Christians were arrested in the Libyan city of Benghazi on accusations of sharing their faith. They were initially seized by Islamist militants, who shaved their heads and tortured them with beatings and electric shocks. One of them later died in prison. Their church was also attacked twice and their minister beaten up.”
Lebanon. In the 1970s, before the collapse of the country into Islamist violence, Christians represented a majority of the population. Now, that number has dropped to 34%. According to Christian Freedom International, continued violence and the rise of Islamist groups like Hezbollah has dramatically decreased the Christian population.
No wonder Pope Francis stated in November 2013, “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.” That reality is already well within imagination, thanks to the Islamist Spring backed by the Obama administration – and the persecution of Christians continues to increase in other countries, including Turkey, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.