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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 • Holidays

soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. Roger B.

    Millions prayed to win the the 600million lottery. But their god (sic) only came thru for three. Probably three rich jews.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • GodsPeople

      God wouldn't answer any of those with a positive result, actually. He does not support greed, and even names it as a deadly sin.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • photoman1

      Godspeople, have you told that to the GOP?

      April 7, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • AI

      You can't say that "requesting material things" is a prayer. A trueprayer is connection of love between you and the almighty God, when you talk to him, thank him and request his presence with you and your life, request his peace that the world can't give. People who know know there are much more precious things than material things.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  2. John

    Since, in my view, there is no "afterlife" those9 of any religion) who spent a lifetime honoring a nonexestint god will not experience of their misguided lives. The far distant historical past has, and continues to, play a dirty trick on most of mankind.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  3. bspurloc

    "EXPERTS" are fearful? all religions promote death and intolerance. just go to a southern state in the USA with a jesus is a myth sign on your car see how many people attack u with peace and luv

    April 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • hez316

      So "Christianity "promotes a bad response from the sign on the car or misguided "christians' provided the bad response? Please do not confuse the message with a few misguided folks.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  4. Steve the Goat

    Religion needs to go away. How is it people can look at things like santa, the tooth fairy, etc, and say "well that's just silly" yet have no problem believing the whole space ghost mythology?

    April 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • bspurloc

      well the easter bunny is real.....
      imagine if u could think up stuff taht markets to KIDS to get them to believe in religion like SANTA, EASTER BUNNY... when companies try to market to kids we all cry and get angry.... so these things got grandfathered in eh

      April 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Carla Vazq

      Why do people think there is only on jc when I have seen that ugly face on two tacos?

      April 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Kandi

      The bunny will be eaten tomorrow! Then no more bunny. And this year I will kill santa for not giving me an ipod last year. Then no more santa. And jeezus can't save either of them, for I am god for the rest of the year because I saw jeezus' face on a banana peel.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  5. Sandi

    This garbage is nothing but media fear mongering and the scary thing is, people who read this crap eat it up. ANYONE who has the slightest clue about Islam knows that Jesus Christ is revered as a prophet to Muslims. Why the hell would they incite violence on the day of his crucifiction? Thats just ridiculous. No human being dare call himself a muslim
    if he speaks of violence on this day.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • ZerkyWerky

      heh... I came in here to say the same thing. Blatant fear mongering by the media. Shame on you CNN!

      April 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • GodsPeople

      Same reason most Terrorist countries promote violence against Christianity. They hold Christians captive in prisons and torture them until they either convert to Islam or execute them for heresy.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Sandi

      Shame on you! Terrorists come in ALL religions! Does the word Crusade mean anything to you?

      April 7, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Trent

      And yet, Muslims have been butchering Christians AND Jews for decades. Apparently their belief in "prophets" means little.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Kevin

      @sandi

      Crusade is a drink like gayderaide I think.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • GroupOne

      Sandi, get an education. Islam claims Jesus (along with Old Testament prophets) to be a muslim, denies his divine nature, denies he was crucified, and much else that is wholly incompatible with Christian belief. As for the Crusades? Get an education. Islam had been forcing its way west for hundreds of years, butchering Jews (whom they still hate with genocidal intent), and butchering or enslaving Christians, enforcing jizya. The Holy Land had become a pit, churches were destroyed (as they are destroyed today), and people begged for help. Let's back up: Islam had fought its way to the Holy Land with eyes on Europe (still an objective today); and, it did this by giving people three choices – convert, pay jizya, or die. Again, they were lustily killing Jews and Christians for HUNDREDS OF YEARS before anyone took up arms to fight and retake the Holy Land, yet people like you continue to think the Crusades are the fault of the christians? Get an education.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  6. Saber

    Any religion where you can ask your priest to strap on a chest load of TNT, walk into a market place and blow up innocent people, (regardless of faith, race, creed or country), is not a religion! That to me is described as an excuse! Of course anyone believing they will be a hero is a fool! They just get cleaned up with a squeegee and a garden hose! For the extremeists who brain-wash these innocent people into believing they are doing something great in the name of Allah, had better do a little more homework in their Koran! I have read it, and it clearly states that killing ANYONE who believes in God, (unless it is justified by genocidial attacks against the Muslim Faith), is a sin and will be taking the Hell Express! So for those of you standing behind Osama Bin Poopy Head and any of his remnants, you folks are marking yourself for eternal damnation! Nuff Said!

    April 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Sandi

      Amen! The top two sins of Islam are murder and suicide. If a non muslim would just take the time to read the scriptures and understand the religion, they would grasp that any human being that drives a plane into a day care center or straps on a suicide vest and blows up a market is NOT NOT NOT a muslim. They are an evil animal who will be judged harshly by God. After all these years it still amazes me that people are so blinded by propaganda. What the hell has changed since the holocaust? Did we learn nothing? Hilter stood on a podium and declared that it was his Christian duty to murder Jews.
      And people believed him! Just like today . God help us all for our gross ignorance and complete disregard for ALL of his Children.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • GroupOne

      Apparently you're not reading the same "scripture" either:

      8:39. And fight them until there is no more Fitna (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.

      8:67. It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war (and free them with ransom) until he had made a great slaughter (among his enemies) in the land.

      9:29. Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (i.e. Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

      9:33. It is He {Allah} Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).

      The commandments to wage war against non-Muslims are there for all to read.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  7. blake

    Certainly targetted for regular ridicule and put downs Democrats, Hollywood, and the leftist media.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  8. well

    Funny how they fail to mention that Christians in Syria are scared now because Assad it too weak to protect them from the Islamists we choose to support!

    April 7, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  9. MrHanson

    Atheists can only hope so.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things*

    April 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Carla Vazq

      Okay, tell me O Sheltered One! Proven example please!

      April 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • another repentant sinner

      Prayer changed my life.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • photoman1

      No, it doesn't.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • 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 8, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  11. Max

    Wishing the Christians in middle east a very Blessed Resurrection sunday.

    God bless you and your families.

    April 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  12. WillH85

    And of course people jump to defend Islam and free it from any blame. I think that's my biggest problem with Islam, they can't accept how troubled and dangerous their religion is. The moderats could take responsibility and try and fix their religion, but instead they just tell us to ignore all of its problems.

    April 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • me

      all religion is poison... you really think your religion is any different. lol

      April 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  13. Ben

    When are people going to realize so much of the muslim comunity is very intolerant. People's argument is that you can't let a small group of people represent a whole religion... We aren't talking about a few terrorist in caves, we are talking about arab goverments, total populations of countries... this is the idiology of the mass majority of muslims across the worls not the .1 percent that live in America and shop at the gap...

    April 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  14. Muneef

    Killing is a crime whether was Religious or not Religious..
    Who ever would kill people for their Religious Practice is a Terrorist by all means...We have heard of Sunnies attacking Shiites or Shiites attacking Sunnies during prayers or pilgrimage...or hear any of those being attacked or attacking Christians or Jews during their prayers or pilgrimage...such things are nothing but Terrorists acts and not at all related to religious issues what so ever..and have to be severely punished as per the message of GOD;
    -–

    Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors. 5:32
    ---

    Say, "O People of the Scripture, do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before and misled many and have strayed from the soundness of the way." 5:77

    April 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Nii

      MUNEEF
      The worship of Allah enjoins as to love our neighbor as ourself as proof that we love Allah. If u preach this to your children more MOSLEMS will be happier and refrain from violence.

      April 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Muneef

      Well violence attracts more violence and peace here will have no chance to be preached;

      Navy Hero Seal Sharpshooter Snipper Chris Kyle
      Killing over 260 Iraqi Women,Children and Elderly Iraqis;
         
      (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhjHWovwix4

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ12PN81xnI&w=640&h=360]
       
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU5MLcWXzfo&w=640&h=360]
       
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhY5B3U6G5g&w=640&h=360]
       
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiVDtNjORbY&w=640&h=360]
       
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKpXgo9kDiE&w=640&h=360]
       
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWPNZK6MlrQ&w=640&h=360]
       
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YXDd-FoKd8&w=640&h=360]

      American Sniper

      A Poem By Darryl Mason

      "Kill one man, terrorize a thousand"
      the instructor had pointed to the sign
      on the wall at the school where I learned to kill
      Camp Pendleton, California
      it didn't have a fancy name, this school
      like 'tactical depopulation training'
      we called it what it was
      Sniper School
      three months training
      then they sent me here

      "Kill one man, terrorize a thousand"
      he smiled when he read the sign to me
      my scores were good
      he told me he was proud of me
      never heard a man say that to me before
      I see him now still tapping that sign
      to a roomful of kids who are now
      mostly dead
      or wounded
       

      April 7, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • BJust

      How big percentage of all terror acts on the last 10 years are muslim? And don't give me a usual excuse that it's a retaliation...Hate will bring hate & love will bring love. Christians inarab countries, be blessed.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  15. Rick

    islam is hate
    islam is intolerance
    islam is violence
    islam is terror
    islam is murder

    April 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Muneef

      Terrorists are carrying out their crime disguised under Religious cause and you find them disguised under many religious branches/paths of any religion..
      We are at the era of Charlatanism,Quackery & Delusion... Pure Religions are a good thing but Religious one's might be misguided to astray beyond the truth by swindlers into becoming as dark as it reflects;
      --
      Say, "O People of the Scripture, do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before and misled many and have strayed from the soundness of the way." 5:77

      April 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • me

      all religion sucks

      April 7, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • photoman1

      The same things can be said about Christianity.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  16. Twighlight

    Well , what do u think is gunna happen ? U dumb idiots gave terroists all these guns to ruin the gov's alawites now their after the christian

    April 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • GodsPeople

      Would you please be so kind as to repeat that in English? I'd appreciate it, as I'm sure other members of the board of youbstupid industries would.

      April 7, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      God'sPoople, it could be posted in two-syllable English words and it wouldn't matter-you wouldn't be able to read it anyway.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  17. Rob

    I'm not sure what all this banter has to do with this article. Whether you believe in God or not, people (you know who) are blowing up places of worship with people in them. Personal experience is important for you personally. It may or may not be received by others. The beauty is that with freedom a person has the right to believe or not believe. When you leave the planet for the last time you will know the truth of whatever you believed or did not believe. There is an old song that has the lyrics, "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." Ignorance and political correctness have never worked out historically wherever they flourish.

    April 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  18. YeahOk

    Things prayer changes... Nothing.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • another repentant sinner

      Prayer changes my life, why would you call another persons life nothing?

      April 7, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • YeahOk

      @another repentant sinner

      "Prayer changes my life, why would you call another persons life nothing?"

      Prayer does not change your life, your choice to choose to change your life changes your life. YOU are in control of your life, YOU make changes to your life. Why do you think you need to ask a god to become a better person? if you want to be a better person, you don't need to pray for that, just do it.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • another repentant sinner

      It is my life I know what changed my life, it was prayer. Prayer to Jesus to save me and change my life and Jesus did.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  19. Keith

    Just wait until the shooting starts with Iran:
    The cells within the U.S. and Europe are now on high alert, according to the source. Targets have been chosen and are prioritized: First, attack energy resources (power, gas and oil facilities); second, create fear by attacking high-population areas; last, assassinate officials of the host country who have supported war with Iran.

    April 7, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Sternn

      So you're on high alert, eh? Thanks for telling us what you have planned. It will be easier to prosecute you later.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • portland tony

      Yeah right, Me thinks you should take one more trip to your doctor and have your Meds changed. No state (Iran) is going to risk having their country turned into another Iraq!

      April 7, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Keith

      If your ultimate goal was to create a world in chaos in order to hasten the return of your Mahdi you just might. I'm not the terrorist. Hezbollah will do the dirty work. Can you imagine the DC snipers in every metropolis in the US? I'm sure the Iranian leadership has.

      April 7, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Keith

      Besides, the quote came from an article written by a guy named, Reza Kahlili-a former CIA operative in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

      April 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Nii

      KEITH
      Were u de one telling me Universalism was wrong? Well since u r so well placed don't u see what motivates these people? Hatred. Just like urs. If the World is to close ranks against extremists its 2 b done by peacemakers not warmongers. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall b called....

      April 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Keith

      Nii, Don't worry. You'll get your "peacemaker", but he won't be blessed. He'll be the anti-christ and he'll confirm a 7 year peace treaty for Israel.

      April 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hey, Keith, have you figured out that our President isn't a Muslim yet? Or are you still deranged?

      April 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Keith

      Tom, Have you figured out that Israel blew away that Syrian nuke site, yet? Keep chuggin' that kool-aid, moron.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    April 7, 2012 at 10:27 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 7, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Fero

      You're wasting your time - you can convince someone that God doesn't exist and prayer is placebo bull as much as you can convince a Schizophrenic that he isn't hearing the voice of God. This only proves that Schizophrenia is more common than believed. I bet these same people that believe in prayer wouldn't think twice to crucify someone who claims to be Jesus reborn. That's truly ironic.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • photoman1

      These "other living things? you refer to are what exactly?

      April 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.