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  • In December 2016, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people at a Coptic Orthodox Church

  • in Egypt.

  • This was one of the deadliest attacks to ever target Coptic Christians, a religious minority

  • accounting for roughly ten percent of Egypt’s population.

  • Copts and other Christian sects have long faced violence and discrimination in Egypt

  • and other parts of the Middle East, where Islam is the dominant religion.

  • So, we wanted to know, what is life like for Christians in the Middle East?

  • Well, as of 2011 there were as many as 16 million Christians living in the Middle East.

  • Christian communities can be found in every Middle Eastern country, but by far the largest

  • are in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, which tend to be more tolerant of Christianity than,

  • say, Iran or Saudi Arabia.

  • But these stats are likely already outdated as the Middle East’s Christian population

  • is rapidly declining.

  • This is, in part, a result of Islamic extremist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, which have

  • for decades, directly targeted Christians.

  • Such groups adhere to a strict interpretation of Sharia Law that looks down upon non-Sunni

  • people of the book”, specifically Christians.

  • Perhaps the best example of this was the Islamic State’s invasion of Mosul, an Iraqi city

  • that was once home to tens of thousands of Christians.

  • As ISIS fighters seized the city and surrounding areas in 2014, they cut off the water supply

  • to Christian communities and reportedly tagged Christian homes with “N” for Nazarene,

  • a slur.

  • Facing a choice between close to unlivable conditions, forced conversions, or death,

  • many Christians fled 50 miles to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil [Err-BILL], where they

  • faced discrimination in finding a job and obtaining public services.

  • Just one month after their takeover, ISIS announced that Mosul was Christian-free.

  • Also problematic for Middle Eastern Christians was the Arab Spring.

  • Not only did the movement propel many Muslim leaders into power, but it gave rise to anti-government

  • rebel groups, which are known to target Christians.

  • For instance Syrian Christians, who have been persecuted for centuries, were actually protected

  • under President Bashar Al-assad and his father who ruled before him.

  • This is in part because of Assad’s adherence to Baathism, which emphasizes Arab nationalism

  • over any particular religion or ethnicity.

  • Although Christians stayed neutral when the anti-Assad revolution sparked in 2011, they

  • were still resented, and targeted, by rebel forces.

  • In 2015, the EU estimated that more than 700,000 Christians had fled Syria.

  • The experience of Christians in the Middle East varies depending on location and political

  • climate, but perhaps the best insight into what life is like for the community as a whole

  • can be seen in Egypt.

  • The country is home to millions of Christians, most of whom are members of the Coptic Orthodox

  • Church.

  • Copts face numerous institutional hurdles and are frequently victims of hate crimes.

  • After the Arab Spring brought the Muslim Brotherhood into power in 2011, crowds attacked Coptic

  • businesses, homes and churches, and incidents of kidnapping, assault and murder were reported.

  • The violence forced an estimated 100,000 Copts to emigrate.

  • The community was shaken up again in 2014, when ISIS released a video showing the beheading

  • of 21 Coptic businessmen.

  • Life for Christians is better in some Middle Eastern countries than in others.

  • For instance in Lebanon, Christians account for nearly 40 percent of the population and

  • play a significant role in politics.

  • Lebanon’s president and half of its parliament are all Christians.

  • Jordan’s small Christian population are guaranteed positions in the government, and

  • generally live in safe conditions.

  • Targeted violence, combined with other factors such as low birth rates and high emigration

  • rates, have decimated the proportion of Middle Eastern Christians from 20 percent in the

  • early 20th century to just 5 percent today.

  • The rise of ISIS and the Syrian Civil war has only exacerbated Christian deaths and

  • outmigration.

  • If marginalization and hate-crimes continue, we may one day see Christianity completely

  • vanish from the same region it was born.

  • The Middle East is not the only region where Christians face hostility.

  • Around the world, much of religious persecutio is directed at Christians.

  • So where are the worst places for Christians?

  • Find out in our video here.

  • With North Korea a notable exception, nine out of the top ten worst countries for Christians

  • are Muslim majority nations in the Middle East and Africa.

  • In recent years, Christians have all but abandoned those regions, as violence and religious extremism

  • continues to grow.

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In December 2016, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people at a Coptic Orthodox Church

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Why It’s So Dangerous To Be Christian In The Middle East

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