(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)
By: Candice Malcolm
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. That is, it’s a wonderful time of year for us in North America, where we enjoy vast religious freedoms and the ability to observe religious holidays without fear, harassment or persecution.
Sadly, this is not the case for millions of Christians around the world. Christians have become the most persecuted religious group on the planet, and we in the West are not doing enough to defend and protect Christians under attack in other parts of the world.
Nowhere is this plight more evident than in Christianity’s biblical homeland in the Middle East – where deadly attacks against Christians have become commonplace.
On Palm Sunday 2017, Islamic State militants waged a callous attack against Coptic Christians praying in their church. Two suicide bombers struck and killed 44 people in one of the deadliest days for Egypt’s already threatened Christian population.
While many Egyptian Muslims condemned the attack — many rushed to give blood, and three female Muslim police officers were killed trying to protect Christians — this type of violence in the Middle East is only intensifying.
Countries that once boasted significant religious diversity, including Iran and Turkey, no longer have any tolerance for minorities; the Muslim population in these countries now surpasses 99%. In other Middle Eastern countries that once housed sizeable Christian and Jewish minority communities, including Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, hostile political environments have forced many in these communities to flee.
Even in Lebanon, the only country in the Middle East where Christians are constitutionally granted a political stake, Christian numbers are dwindling. Christians once made up nearly 80% of the population. Today, less than one-third of Lebanon’s population is Christian.
Christians, Jews and Muslims coexisted in the Middle East for centuries, but a new strain of Islamist extremism is making life unbearable for non-Muslims. Religious minorities are increasingly treated with suspicion or outright hostility across the region, and a rising zealotry has made intolerance the new norm.
This intense persecution and mistreatment of minorities has been highlighted under the cruel reign of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but it can be traced back one hundred years to the fall of Ottoman Empire.
As the Ottoman Empire collapsed, a group of Turkish nationalists called the Young Turks began targeting and slaughtering Christians, particularly those in the Armenian community. While the new Turkish empire tried to hide its ghastly crimes, a German diplomat and ally to the Turks wrote that there “no longer was doubt that (the Turkish government) was trying to exterminate the Armenian race in the Turkish Empire.”
In the end, at least two million Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians were murdered by the Turks. Surviving Christians fled to the West, or into Iraq and Syria where they were protected – until the Islamists took over and began slaughtering Christians in their own genocide.
This intense hatred towards Christians has led to a drastic reduction in the Middle East’s Christian population. As recently as...(READ MORE)