Friday, September 13, 2013

'Arab Spring' is a chilling winter for Christians

In this "Arab Spring" (a misnomer if ever there was one), one aspect of the changes in Middle East governance has largely been overlooked. In all three countries where the United States has favored the overthrow of long-ruling dictators, the Christian minorities in those countries have suffered.

In Iraq, where the United States overthrew the cruel, despotic Saddam Hussein, Christians have fled the country as Shiite and Sunni Muslims have fought their civil war and both Islamic factions have attacked Christians. Hussein, for all his cruelty, had kept the insurgent Shiite majority in check and had protected Christians from abuse.

In Egypt, still in turmoil since the overthrow of, first, Hosni Mubarak, and, later, the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi, Coptic Christians, with a 2,000-year history in Egypt, have become targets of the Islamist insurgents. Churches have been bombed, and Christians have been murdered.

Syrian Christians have also become targets of the insurgency, which includes Islamist factions, including al-Qaida. Christian communities in the majority-Sunni nation trace their churches and traditions back to New Testament missionaries. Saint Paul was headed to Damascus, the Syrian capital, when he experienced his conversion. Those Christian communities are under attack by the Muslim rebels. Bashar Assad and his father had protected the Christian minority perhaps in part because Assad's family belonged to the Alawite sect, a Muslim minority.

In each case, these revolutions gave power to Islamist elements, some of whom consider it their duty to kill "infidels" or expel them from their Islamic territory. To these zealots, a Christian church is an affront to Allah and must be destroyed; Christian worship is likewise detestable; and Christian witness is a capital offense. Religious freedom is blasphemy to them.

Certainly, U.S. foreign policy did not deliberately aim to disrupt or destroy Christian minorities in these Islamic countries, but by supporting, to one degree or another, the overthrow of powerful despots who had protected the religious freedom of Christian minorities, the United States has made life more difficult for Christians throughout the Middle East.

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