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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But these stats are likely already outdated as the Middle East’s Christian population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 Ba’athism, 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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Why It’s So Dangerous To Be Christian In The Middle East

123 Folder Collection
むなかた じゅん published on January 9, 2017
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