The Middle East may be a raging wildfire, but the eyes of the world are on the revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace dance — that all-too-familiar game where the Jewish state makes concessions (such as releasing terrorists) for the privilege of talking to an enemy who demonizes Jews, glorifies terrorists and has already rejected three peace offers.
It’s a testament to the general success of the Israeli state that after returning from 10 days there, I am a lot more concerned with what’s happening in the rest of the Middle East.
After the heady promise of the Arab Spring two years ago, the situation in the Middle East is now more like the Arab Volcano — with sectarian violence erupting in many areas and the Iranian nuclear threat hovering like a dark force. Instead of unleashing the power of democracy, the Arab Spring has cooked up a lethal brew of festering hatred, economic misery and vicious power struggles.
In contrast to that chaos, Israel feels like Club Med.
But hidden in all the chaos is a monstrous injustice that has received very little media attention: The rampant persecution of Christians.
“Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history,” Bruce Thornton, research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, wrote on the institute’s Web site. “Estimates of the numbers of Christians under assault range from 100 [million] to 200 million. According to one estimate, a Christian is martyred every five minutes.”
It’s odd that prominent Christians like President Barack Obama and Pope Francis have been utterly silent about this humanitarian tragedy.
As Kirsten Powers wrote recently in USA Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asserted late last year that “Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world,” while former French President Nicholas Sarkozy warned in a 2011 speech that “Christians face a particularly wicked program of cleansing in the Middle East, religious cleansing.”
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg told Powers “he is shocked that American Christians aren’t regularly protesting outside of embassies drawing attention to this issue,” and he called the persecution of Christians in the Middle East “one of the most undercovered stories in international news.”
One Christian who is certainly not keeping quiet is Raymond Ibrahim, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and associate fellow of the Middle East Forum.
In a review of Ibrahim’s new book, “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians,” Thornton writes that Ibrahim, who is fluent in Arabic, “has been tracking what he calls ‘one of the most dramatic stories’ of our time in the reports and witnesses that appear in Arabic newspapers, news shows, and websites, but that rarely get translated into English or picked up by the Western press.”
Most of this persecution, according to the book, is by Muslims: “Of the top fifty countries persecuting Christians, forty-two have either a Muslim majority or have sizable Muslim populations.”
By documenting “hundreds of specific examples from across the Muslim world,” Thornton adds, Ibrahim “shows the extent of the persecution, and forestalls any claims that it is a marginal problem.”
Muslim attacks, Thornton writes, “result not just from the jihadists that some Westerners dismiss as ‘extremists,’ but from mobs of ordinary people, and from government policy and laws that discriminate against Christians. … These attacks reveal a consistent ideology of hatred and contempt that transcends national, geographical, and ethnic differences.”
The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, for example, announced that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” which prompted Thornton to ask, in the wake of Western silence: “Is there no limit to our tolerance of Islam?”
“Tragically,” Powers of USA Today writes, “Christians have been forced to abandon homelands they have occupied for thousands of years. Up to two-thirds of Christians have fled Iraq in the past ten years to escape massacres, church burnings and constant death threats.”
According to Powers, in Iran, U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini has been sentenced to eight years in prison for preaching Christianity. In Egypt, Amnesty International blasted the recently deposed Islamic Brotherhood government for its failure to protect Coptic Christians from discrimination and violence. And in Lebanon, once a majority Christian country, the former president complained of a “genocide” against Christians.
“The future of Christians in the Middle East is very bleak,” Neil Hicks of Human Rights First told Powers.
The world media is perfectly OK covering Muslims killing Muslims, as is happening now in Syria. But why does it clam up when Muslims persecute Christians? Are we afraid to appear “Islamophobic” or bring back memories of the Dark Ages?
As a people who know all too well about “dark” ages, Jews should not stand idly by. We shouldn’t shy away from unpleasant truths, just because the media does. Jews who believe in social justice should shine a light on the tragic plight of persecuted Christians.
Maybe if we make some noise, the president and the pope will follow.
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.