Mideast Christians speak against Muslim persecution

A panel discussion brings persecution of Christians in Muslim majority countries to light.

mideast christians 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
mideast christians 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In early November, several Middle East Christians who are rising voices on the issue of Islamic persecution of Christians in predominantly Muslim countries took part in a panel discussion on the subject hosted by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.
The extremely informative session was co-sponsored by the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel.
Dr. Mordechai Nisan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a leading scholar on Lebanon’s ancient Christian communities, chaired the event and opened his remarks by warning that “historical trends are very threatening to Christians in the Middle East.”
The panel included Raymond Ibrahim, the son of a family of Egyptian Coptic Christians who grew up in the United States. Ibrahim is a senior fellow at the Middle East Forum and has advised several US government security and defense agencies on regional history and policy.
“Islam is very hostile to all non- Muslims, but they name two specific groups, Jews and Christians,” Ibrahim stated. He explained there were many prominent examples of this hostility down through history, and that much of this history has been written down by Islam’s most prestigious scholars with pride and not remorse.
He also explained that this violent ideology is not an aberration or a mistake, but is derived directly from the Koran itself. He added that historical accounts of Muslims burning churches and the forced conversions of Christian and Jewish communities through terror and threats are continuing into the present day in numerous countries around the world, including Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and many others that “have nothing in common except Islam.”
Ibrahim also lamented that many Western liberals make excuses for violent Islamic behavior, claiming it is a reaction to Muslims being treated badly as minorities in places like France and the US. But he insisted that in countries where Muslims are in the majority, they prey on the tiny Christian minorities among them as a way of getting back at the West for perceived injustices and wrongs, most of which are the result of Muslim inferiority complexes and conspiracy theories.
Ibrahim also blasted the “unbelievable hypocrisy” with which many mainline Protestant churches criticize Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians while they are deafeningly silent about the Christian victims of religious and ethnic cleansing campaigns being carried out by Muslims in many countries today.
He added that the anti-Israel attitude adopted by most Arab Christians was derived from Arab nationalism, not theological anti-Semitism. As Arab nationalism fades and is eclipsed by Islamic fundamentalism, some Arab Christians are slowly coming to realize that they and Israel have a common problem.
He also said when they are in the Middle East, Arab Christians have to “play the game” of keeping up an appearance of being fiercely opposed to Israel. But those who escape to the West lose their hostility to Israel and some even become supporters of the Jewish state.
Julliane Talmoorazy, president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and a leader of the Assyrian Catholic community in the US, also spoke on the panel about the vicious attacks on Christian communities in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world. She even described the modern-day crucifixion of Christian children who refuse to convert to Islam, and many other atrocities.
“This is a blueprint which has been used for hundreds of years. Nothing has changed,” she declared.
Talmoorazy also shared graphic photos and video testimonies about Iraqi Christians who had been killed, wounded or traumatized during attacks by their Muslim neighbors.
Both speakers warned that the growing political, economic and social power of Muslim communities in the West would eventually lead to a similar pattern of behavior, using as examples the demands by Muslims in the United Kingdom and France to serve Islamic foods in school cafeterias, and the silencing of bells in Catholic Churches within earshot of mosques.
“I’m terrified that the Shari’a law is coming in the US,” Talmoorazy stated.
She added that when she tries to share about Muslim persecution of Mideast Christians in Protestant churches, she is often rebuffed by pastors who accuse her of “spreading poison” and unfairly smearing Islam, which many insist is “a religion of peace.”
When asked how the local Catholic Church in Israel responded to her pleas for help, she said that the Custos of the Holy Land had told her frankly, “We don’t know what to do.”
The panel discussion was concluded by Dr. Mordechai Kedar of the Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, who gave the cultural background to Muslim violence against Christian communities.
“The Koran tells Muslims that they are God’s greatest gift to the world,” he explained. He also noted that “it has been a dream of Islam to unite all Muslim peoples, no matter what their nationality, under one political, economic and social structure since the origins of the religion in the sixth century. But it’s never happened, and this has led to intense frustration.”
Kedar described how many Muslims look around and see the widespread poverty and dysfunction in their own societies, and then they look at the West and even countries in the East, most of which are not Muslim, and they note the disparity. They also see that the US – despite being an “infidel nation” – has accomplished the “melting pot” that they have sought to create for themselves.
“This leads to frustration and anger, and they take it out on the Christians among them, who usually constitute a tiny minority,” he insisted.
Kedar also discussed the failure of Arab nationalism to eradicate Israel from the Middle East, and the subsequent growth in popularity of Islamism and jihadist ideology.
Commenting from a recent paper he authored, Kedar added “the history of struggle against colonialism that united Muslims and Christians, especially in Egypt and Syria, was forgotten and replaced by religious parochialism and sectarian extremism.”
“For approximately a decade, Islamic satellite TV channels, such as (Hezbollah sponsored) al-Manar and Iqra, have promoted Islamism and imparted radical Islamist messages against non-Muslims,” Kedar explained.
“Furthermore, the growth of the Internet in the Middle East enabled jihadists to disseminate their teachings against ‘infidels,’ especially those who fight Muslims. The Muslim man in the street interprets these messages literally, making his Christian neighbor and the local church natural targets.”
All the speakers agreed on the need for Christians and Israel to stand together against the threat of Islamist terrorism.
Much of the world media also has ignored the Muslim persecution of Christians in the Middle East, but one recent article in The Daily Telegraph (UK) shed light on the subject. In a piece entitled “The last Christian in Homs,” published on November 2, a family of Christians in Syria recalled how they were terrorized into finally fleeing their hometown by an Islamist group which is part of the rebel forces battling to oust President Bashar Assad.
“We left because they were trying to kill us,” 18-year-old Noura Haddad told the British newspaper, describing her family’s flight from the city of Homs.
“They wanted to kill us because we were Christians. They were calling us ‘kaffirs’ [infidels], even little children saying these things. Those who were our neighbors turned against us.”
“I’ve kept in touch with the few Christian friends left back home, but I cannot speak to my Muslim friends any more. I feel very sorry about that.”