DALLAS, September 26, 2013 — Much of the focus on the tensions in the Middle East, Africa and Asia has been on which political group will ultimately gain power in the various struggles. However, the bombing of a church in Pakistan and the targeting of non-Muslims in the terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya highlight the vulnerability of religious minorities in many parts of the world.
Sundays’ attack on All Saint’s Church, an Anglican church built in 1883 is the deadliest attack on Christians in Pakistan’s history, killing 81 and injuring 140 church goers, according to the Associated Press.
At the July 2013 briefing on religious freedom in Pakistan hosted by U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Peter Bhatti said, “Christians feel insecure and fearful in their motherland. These (blasphemy) laws have encouraged hundreds of incidents during which innocent Christians have been victimized, persecuted, burnt alive, and had their churches and properties burnt and demolished. Many people currently are in prison and waiting for trials.”
The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 notes the global trend in religious freedoms has been negative. From authoritarian Communist countries like China and Cuba to Islamic nations like Saudi Arabia, 75% of the world’s population lives in countries where there are severe restrictions on religion, according to Open Doors USA, an organization that tracks persecutions of Christians.
A Pew Forum report on Global Christianity reported that Christians shrank from 9.5% of the population in the Middle East and North Africa in 1910 to only 3.8% of the population in 2010. Since 2010, the political turmoil and ascension of more militant Islamic governments has lead to even more emigration of Christians from the region.
Egypt has the largest concentration of Christians in the Middle East, but tens of thousands of Copts have fled the country after President Mubarak’s ouster according to human rights activists. There are daily reports of violence against the remaining Coptic populations.
The Associated Press reported that Syrian Christians from the village of Maaloula were driven out or forcibly converted to Islam by rebels aligned with al-Qaida. That Christian community goes back to the birth of Christianity and still speaks Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
Last year, a Public Broadcasting Service news report noted that the only Middle-Eastern country that has a growing Christian population is Israel. “There are no more Christians in Algeria, in Tunisia, in Libya, where there was a majority of Christians 700, 800 years ago. They’re gone. There’s not — there’s no one,” Mary-Jane Deeb, head of the Africa and Middle East division of the Library of Congress told PBS last year. “In the rest of the region that will also happen as more Christians are emigrating. They’re leaving.”
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