Mother, daughter look at Christmas trees in Tehran_311.
(photo credit: Morteza Nikoubazi/Reuters)
There has been a wave of violence targeting Iranian and Syrian Christians over
the past month, say Christian news reports.
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In addition, Iranian Pastor
Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been on death row since 2010 for seeking to register
his home-based church, refused to renounce his Christian beliefs in exchange for
his release from prison. He was also jailed for questioning the role of Islam as
the dominant form of religious instruction in his children’s
According to a report on the website of the International
Christian news agency BosNewsLife, “Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has
rejected an offer to be released from prison if he publicly acknowledges Islam’s
prophet Mohammed as ‘a messenger sent by God,’ well-informed Christians and
rights activists said” earlier this month.
While Iran’s opaque judicial
system coupled with the lack of access for most Western media makes it difficult
to verify the new coercion against Nadarkhani, the reports are considered
reasonable in light of the Iranian regime’s intense crackdown on its Christian
population over the years.
In an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post
Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio and author of the book A New
Shoah, wrote “After the ethnic cleansing of Jews in 1948 from the Arab
countries, Islamic fundamentalism is now trying to push away the Christians from
the region. They want to establish a pure Islamic environment and the
mass exodus already began under our noses.”
Meanwhile, the Pakistan
wrote last week on its website, “The Christian community in Syria
has been hit by a series of kidnappings and brutal murders; 100 Christians have
now been killed since the anti-government unrest began. A reliable source in the
country, who cannot be identified for their own safety, told Barnabas Aid that
children were being especially targeted by the kidnappers, who, if they do not
receive the ransom demanded, kill the victim.”
The Pakistan Christian
website noted “Two Christians were killed on January 15 as they waited for
bread at a bakery. Another Christian, aged 40 with two young children, was shot
dead by three armed attackers while he was driving a vehicle.”
could not independently verify these allegations.
Meotti, the Italian
Journalist who has written extensively on Christians in the Mideast region, told
the Post “In Syria Christians will be persecuted after Assad’s eventual fall,
since they were the most loyal allies of the Baathist regime. Christians will be
slaughtered or squeezed. From Cairo to Damascus, Arab Christian era is near to
its end everywhere.”
Many critics of Assad’s regime, however, view Assad
as exploiting sectarian conflicts in Syria to solidify his repressive security
apparatus, which has resulted in the killings of over 5,000 pro-democracy
supporters in Syria.
“Of course Assad is using the power of fear to
manipulate the Christians. He is directing these bishops and patriarchs to say
what suits him,” Pascal Gollnisch, a Catholic priest and director of l’Oeuvre
d’Orient, told the French news organization F24 in December.
Paris-based organization seeks to shield Christians from persecution mainly in
the Middle East region and is part of the Archdiocese of
Christians make up 10 percent of Syria’s 22 million
Clifford D. May, the president of the Washington-based
Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former New York Times
long argued the persecution of Christians in numerous Muslim-majority countries
is the most pressing news story ignored by the mainstream media.
“If the situation were reversed, if such a war were being waged against
Muslims, it would be the top story in every newspaper, the most urgent item at
the UN, the highest priority of all the big-league human-rights
The US-based media watchdog organization the Committee for
Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) held on Saturday a
conference titled “The Persecuted Church: Christian Believers in Peril in the
Dr. Richard Landes, an associate professor of history and
director and cofounder of the Center of Millennial Studies at Boston University,
who spoke at the CAMERA event, wrote the Post on Sunday: “there’s a bizarre,
eery, indeed terrible (a-)symmetry between the nearly hysterical concern of the
media and the ‘progressive’ NGOs etc. about Israeli violations of the
Palestinian ‘human rights’ and the nearly total silence about the horrendous
things happening to Christians in Muslim majority countries, not necessarily at
the hands of their neighbors but of Salafists, Jihadis, etc.”
added that “it all illustrates Charles Jacobs’ notion of human rights complex –
the thing that gets western ‘human rights’ folk indignant has nothing to do with
the victims of their sufferings, but the [perpetrators]. If white,
hysteria; if of color, embarrassed silence.
“There’s a racism inherent in
this – we don’t expect anything from people of color, we hold whites to a much
higher standard – and the result is that truly horrendous stuff gets
ignored.”Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow with the Foundation for
Defense of Democracies