Islamic persecution of Christians is a massive global issue. It has grown with instability across the Middle East. The Middle East Forum's record of violence and intolerance in November alone includes:
- In Nigeria, "Islamic militants shouting "Allahu Akbar" carried out coordinated attacks on churches and police stations, including opening fire on a congregation of "mostly women and children," killing dozens";
- Also in Nigeria, "the Muslim militant group, Boko Haram, executed two children of an ex-terrorist and "murderer" because he converted to Christianity";
- In Ethiopia more than 500 Muslim students assisted by Muslim police burned down a church, while screaming "Allahu Akbar";
- In Algeria five Christians were jailed for "worshiping in an unregistered location";
- In Kashmir "Muslim police arrested and beat seven converts from Islam in an attempt to obtain a confession against the priest who baptized them";
- In Kenya, "suspected Islamic extremists, apparently angered at the use of wine during communion—Islam forbids alcohol—threw a grenade near a church compound killing two, including an 8-year-old girl, and critically wounding three others"...
It follows a piece by Fraser Nelson just before Christmas on the same topic. It's good to see a few of the UK commentariat weighing in on this one, something which Christian commentators have been noting for years (or, in the case of Andrew White in Baghdad, experiencing at first hand).
There are some exceptions - the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has announced it will protect Christians as they celebrate Christmas this weekend (the Coptic calendar has Christmas on 7th Jan). It would be fantastic if the Arab spring yielded something better than the sickening violence repeatedly seen against Christians in Pakistan, Kenya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia etc. But how likely?There is a chance, with the Arab spring, for Muslim majority states to do something different. It would be a grim indictment of the new governments if history showed that Saddam, Gaddafi and Mubarak had a better record on religious tolerance than their successors. At the moment it could go either way.
I'm currently reading Tony Blairs 'A Journey', very much with my spin detectors on. He writes at length about Iraq, and argues that much of the violence and death there post-Saddam has been the result of outside elements who don't want to see a stable, prosperous democracy emerge in the Arab world, as it will demonstrate what is possible when you oust a dictator and edge 'West'. He particularly fingers Iran and al Quaeda, and the argument makes a lot of sense, espeically if you look at what's happening in Nigeria at the moment. I don't know enough about what's happening in North Africa to know if the same groups are using the uprisings as cover for anti-Christian violence, or whether the removal of represseive state control is merely allowing 'normal' prejudice and hatred to come to the surface. Either way, there's a lot to pray about, and a lot more our government could do in word and deed to nudge this issue up the agenda.