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After Arab Spring, experts fearful of Christian targeting at Easter celebrations
April 7th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

After Arab Spring, experts fearful of Christian targeting at Easter celebrations

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN)– For Christians in countries thrown into tumult by the Arab Spring revolutions, Easter celebrations may prove dangerous.

According to experts and academics in the United States, the changing balances of power in each country, along with a history of anti-Christian sentiment, have made overt celebrations like Easter a cause for concern among Christians. This atmosphere, according to the same scholars, will likely alter the way the religious holiday is celebrated.

"In the past, they [Syrian Christians] have had great outpouring of piety in the public squares on Easter," said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. "This time, I suspect it is going to be vastly different. They are fearful."

Though the geopolitical makeup of each Arab Spring country is different, Shea and other religious freedom scholars say that a pious holiday like Easter presents an opportunity for anti-Christian groups to seek out worshipers.

In a country like Syria, where the conflict is ongoing between government forces and rebels, Easter celebrations face risks outside of solely religious targeting. In countries like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, where the height of the conflict has passed, Easter celebrations now deal with the new power shifts in each country.

Religious holidays have long been a venue for terrorist attacks against all religious groups in the Middle East and North Africa. These holidays provide not only a meaningful day to make a statement but also see large concentrations of worshipers in one area.

According to Shea, who monitors religious media from Syria and Egypt, some Christians in the area are worried about targeted killings.

"In Syria, it is a time when Christian are packing their suitcases or thinking about packing their suitcase and definitely are going to be lying low this Easter season," she said.

Though Coptic Christian's in Egypt do not celebrate Easter until April 15, they find themselves in a particular state of uncertainty. Coptic Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Christians for nearly four decades, died last month of renal failure. He was 88.

Copts make up 9% of Egypt population, according to the U.S. State Department, but have been the target of a number of attacks in the past few months. In January, at least 21 people died at a church bombing in Alexandria and in October 2011, 25 people died and more than 272 people were injured during protests after a Coptic Church was burned in southern Egypt.

According to CNN's Ben Wedeman, since the revolution that removed former President Hosni Mubarak from office, there have been more clashes between Egypt's Coptic Christians and Muslims.

"There is this idea that Christians are somehow not real Egyptians. There is this idea that these people are not really good citizens of the country," said Albert W. Hickman, a research associate at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. "I'd say the mood is watchful. People are looking to see what is going to happen next."

Hickman continued to say that it would not surprise him if anti-Christian groups in Egypt planned to target worshipers on Easter.

"I would imagine that Christians are not wanting to draw a huge amount of attention to a huge gathering in a park or square," Hickman said.

These concerns are highlighted in a yearly report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"Over the past year, the Egyptian transitional government continued to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief," reads the report. "Violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians increased significantly during the reporting period. The transitional government has failed to protect religious minorities from violent attacks at a time when minority communities have been increasingly vulnerable."

According to the report, nearly 100 Coptic Christians were killed in 2011 because of more than 40 sectarian incidents. This number surpassed the death toll of the previous 10 years combined.

Voice of the Martyrs, a persecution ministry that operates a popular and powerful Facebook page in which American Christians post prayers for persecuted Christians around the world, has highlighted Easter persecution, as well.

"Holy days can be a time when Christians are targeted," reads one post by the organization. "Will you pray God's protection for Christians worshiping in restricted nations this Easter?"

In two hours, the comment was shared over 100 times and liked by almost 400 people.

CNN's Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this article.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Coptic • Easter • Faith Now • Holidays

soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. John

    As a Christian, I can respect the beliefs of Jews & Muslims....I may not agree with them but I respect them. I can't find any respect for atheists – I hate to make sweeping generalizations but based on the comments in this blog, I would call them them most hateful, self-centered & self-absorbed people I have ever encountered. At first this moved me to anger but over time that has moved to sympathy and love.....atheists are a people lost within themselves and this anger seems to be the desperate flailings of a people trying to find something to fill the hole in their soul where God should be. So I say, do not hate them but instead, pray for them.....be like Christ, who prayed for those who persecuted & tortured him..."for they know not what they do".

    April 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  2. Muneef

    To believe in GOD unseen...
    --–
    This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah -2:2

    Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them,2:3

    And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith].2:4

    Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful. 2:5
    ---–

    And We had already given Moses and Aaron the criterion and a light and a reminder for the righteous 21:48

    Who fear their Lord unseen, while they are of the Hour apprehensive. 21:49

    And this [Qur'an] is a blessed message which We have sent down. Then are you with it unacquainted? 21:50

    --–
    And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative. You can only warn those who fear their Lord unseen and have established prayer. And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul. And to Allah is the [final] destination. 35:18
    --

    You can only warn one who follows the message and fears the Most Merciful unseen. So give him good tidings of forgiveness and noble reward. 36:11
    --–

    We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice. And We sent down iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people, and so that Allah may make evident those who support Him and His messengers unseen. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might. 57:25
    --–

    Indeed, those who fear their Lord unseen will have forgiveness and great reward. 67:12

    April 11, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  3. Muneef

    You know could it have been as it seems that in the end Moses (saw) has led the Twelve Tribes of Ishmael through the exudes from Egypt and not Israel....!? 

    “ And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of 12 rulers, and I will make them into a great nation. ”
    —Genesis 17:20

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael

    The 12 Tribes of Ishmael
    http://nabataea.net/12tribes.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adnan
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qahtanite
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghassanids

    April 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Muneef

      I admit that this was a tease only and the truth was that the Children of Israel were the one's in Exodus led by Moses (saw) as stated clearly by the Holy Quran.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    April 10, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Jesus

      `Prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! ~,~

      April 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Haley

      Stop hoarding yourself behind your political views, and start consulting Google Scholar for real information that backs your claims both scientific and lawful alike.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  5. pradeep

    Thank You

    The given information is very effective
    i will keep updated with the same

    industrial automation

    April 10, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  6. b4bigbang

    I had a great Easter and i am having an excellent day today as well. The weather is warm and sunny, and i just want to thank the Intelligent Designer who is the Father of all the physical laws, gravity, etc, etc.!
    Yep. He set up the universe and we study it with our science and it gives me a sense of awe.

    April 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  7. Muneef

    [And mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ].3:45

    He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous."3:46

    She said, "My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?" [The angel] said, "Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, 'Be,' and it is. 3:47

    And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel 3:48

    And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], 'Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah . And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah . And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. 3:49

    And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey me. 3:50

    Indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path." 3:51

    http://quran.com/3
    ---
    As you can read he The Prophet & Messenger of GOD was given all the permission to do miraculous wonders of things by GOD the Creator of Universe and all Beings

    April 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  8. draw pictures to

    Amazing things here. I'm very happy to peer your article. Thanks a lot and I am looking forward to touch you. Will you please drop me a mail?

    April 9, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  9. brad

    Yeah kick God out of schools, State buildings, Public gatherings.. then when someone shoots up a bunch of people, or goes nucking futs on a killing spree, and suddenly people are praying, asking why.. then suddenly people have questions for the God they wanted to kick out of their lives.. people just cant see the big picture, without faith, there's nothing but fear and misunderstanding

    April 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 9, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Jesus

      `Prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! ..

      April 9, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Fraud avoid fake Jesus posts

      April 9, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Fraud avoid fake Jesus posts"

      Thanks for continuing to prove Christians like you are liars and my posts are correct because of your desperation

      April 9, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ..

    April 9, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Jesus

      ~More lies, prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! ..

      April 9, 2012 at 10:41 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.