December 23rd, 2010
02:10 PM ET

Christians face rising persecution, experts say

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

A pastor sits on death row in Iran. His crime? Renouncing Islam  for Christianity.

A Christian mother of two faces execution in Pakistan - and a preacher  has put a price on her head in case the president pardons her. Her crime?  Insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

In Iraq, dozens of Christians lie in fresh graves. Their fatal mistake?  Going to church.

And these are not simply isolated incidents, but part of a broader  pattern, experts say.

"There does appear to be an upsurge in violence directed against  Christians," said Leonard Leo, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on  International Religious Freedom.

He says part of the problem is that "governments are not cracking down on  sectarian violence the way they should."

"We've got to have governments taking ownership of these problems and  enforcing the laws that exist," he said. Whether it's "Christians in Iraq or  Afghanistan, or Copts in Egypt, the government has to prosecute (people) and  put them in jail for killing people on account of their religion."

The problems are worst in the countries with the greatest amount of  division, he said. Anti-blasphemy and apostasy laws also are problems in some  countries, he said.

Asia Bibi, a Christian, is facing a death sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan.

The commission is particularly worried about Egypt, where plans to build  a church near Cairo sparked riots in November. A Christian was killed in  clashes with police.

That violence came on the heels of attacks on the homes and businesses of  Coptic Christians, Egypt's local Christian community, the commission said. The  burning and looting in Qena province, in southern Egypt, was sparked by rumors  of romantic relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman, a  commission statement said.

Bad as that violence was, "the worst place of all undoubtedly is Iraq,  where there was a recent church bombing," said Nina Shea, who also sits on the  religious freedom commission.

At least 70 people died in the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in  Baghdad on October 31. Fifty-three of them were Christians.

Iraq's al Qaeda affiliate, "the Islamic State of Iraq, vowed to kill  Christians wherever they find them," Shea said.

"As the (overall) violence has decreased in Iraq, it has gone up against  the Christians," she said.

Six weeks after the church attack, the United Nations High Commission for  Refugees said it was tracking a "slow but steady exodus" of Christians from  Baghdad and Mosul, two of Iraq's major cities.

Even relatively moderate Morocco has taken action against Christians this  year, Shea says.

"Morocco expelled foreign Christians who had long been in Morocco - the  head of the George Washington  School in Casablanca, the director of an orphanage, educators - about  100 people," she said.

"That followed a petition by Muslim leaders to stop the Christian influence in Morocco," she said. "There may be some pressure from more  conservative Muslims."

"I would not say that Christians are the only target," she added. "We are  seeing it against other groups as well, Shias and Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan, and  Baha'is in Iran."

But, she said, "this has been a very bad year for Christians worldwide."

Christians are one the largest religious minorities in the broader Middle East, she said, and they are a target "because they are there."

"Many of them want to stay. They have been in this region for two  millennia. They are indigenous. This religion started there," she said.

And they have a unique culture, she said.

The Chaldean Christians of Iraq still speak Aramaic, for example.

"If the Chaldeans are scattered to the four corners of the globe, the  language of Jesus will not be preserved," Shea warned. "It will die out."

CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Christianity • Coptic • Egypt • Iran • Iraq • Middle East • Persecution • Religious violence • Violence

soundoff (477 Responses)
  1. Tim

    Christianity is not a religion.
    It is a way of life, it is everything.
    Praise Jesus!!!!


    September 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  2. melissa

    it's sad because our bible tells us not to be riotous, we know our God is real and we serve him publicly because we know the consequences of denying him. Stay strong people of God, "Fear not what man will do unto you be fear the one who can destroy the body and soul in hell. I thank the lord that we shows us truth and mercy and he knows that it's all for our GLORY praise the Lord.

    March 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  3. John Stefanyszyn

    If this is an attack on the worship of Christ as the Son of the One and Only True God why then is it being defended as attack on one's belief of freedom of religion?
    Is Christ a "religion" or is He not the Anointed Son of the true God and the coming King of kings?
    ....The Iranian government has condemned this pastor on the grounds that he does not have the freedom to practice his "Christian" religion because he was born into the Muslim religion.
    ...The USA, religious liberty organizations, and his lawyer have claimed that this judgement is against this pastor's belief in freedom of religion and religious right to practice this "Christian" religion....none of them have stood up for Christ and confessed Him as being the Only Way to the True Creator God.

    This pastor's primary belief is in his desire for freedo of religion.
    This pastor's secondary belief is the "religion" of "Christianity"
    ....It is clear whom he has confessed and whom hw has not publicly confessed.

    I hope that he will stand for the Christ, TheTruth, and not man's way.

    PS.: the Quran says, "Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion," [Quran, 109:6], and, "Whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve," [Quran, 18:29], and, "There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is distinct from error," [Quran, 2:256].

    August 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • cj

      Quote the Qur'an all you want. There is always a surah the contradicts another. The one you quoted (early surah) is contradicted at least 36 times by other (later) surahs. The entire Qur'an is out of context.

      September 29, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • melissa

      If a person thinks that he is religious but can't control his tongue, he is fooling himself James 1:26.
      praise the lord for the anointed one Jesus Christ

      March 6, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  4. HumpinTimmy

    F Islam and MuslimNggers.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:05 am |

    imagine that? religions of different faiths putting to death anyone who prefers to think differently? unheard of! lol where are the sane whom receive enlightenment and discard the chains of false belief in the vampires, werewolves witches, demons and gods of the world? why can we not spread our word? Where are the unbelievers whom have been enlightened efforts to affect the community's ? Our message? simply...........Rise above your fears and let loose the primitive need for gods? it is ok to live and have life and then die.......life is good and thats all we need to worry about.......

    January 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  6. Insight

    Apostasy is against the religion of Islam. It's kind of how religions work. They don't want you to leave them. Having a government founded on a religion is where that problem comes in, because now you can be killed or imprisoned for such actions.
    In Iraq, Al-Qaeda and their cronies have had their teeth knocked in by the armed forces there. The easiest way for them to get the attention they crave is by attacking christians. If there wasn't such a christian-god-loving face slapped on the US, they wouldn't be targeting christians. It's how they spit in our face.
    While christians had relative peace while Saddam was in power in Iraq, nobody cared about the relative holocaust being suffered by the Kurdish. Saddam had to go – things were NOT better for all while he was in power.

    January 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  7. Proverb

    Psalm 60:12 "With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies."


    January 4, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  8. Muneef

    Al-Tawba sura 09:
    Now hath come unto you an messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that ye should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful. (128) But if they turn away, Say : "Allah sufficeth me: There is not god but He: On Him is my trust – He the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme! (129).

    Al-Isra sura 17:
    Say: "O my Lord! let my entry be by the Gate of Truth and Honour, and likewise my exit by the Gate of Truth and Honour; and grant me from Thy Presence an authority to aid (me)." (80) And say: "Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish." (81) We send down (stage by stage) in the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe: to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss. (82) Yet when We bestow Our favours on man, he turns away and becomes remote on his side (instead of coming to Us) and when evil seizes him he gives himself up to despair! (83) Say: "Everyone acts according to his own disposition: but your Lord knows best who it is that is best guided on the Way." (84).

    December 28, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  9. Jesus is the final word

    Yes christians do keep spreading and it says alot that someone who is in fear for their life will still decide to switch to christianity and be completely ostricized or worse yet killed. However blaming them for their own death is rediculous. Yes we do have muslims over here converting as many people as they can Duh. I don't know how ostricized they feel but I havn't seen any news about even one being killed just because they converted.

    So do christians bring it on themselves? Some christians are very defensive and this is understandable when they are a target of real persecution. Others claiming to be christians are rather offensive but I still don't think this kind of persecution can ever be justified. I am so thankful that I live where I can speak my mind with no worry whatsoever about being persecuted beyond the occasional hothead who thinks he would like to settle it with a fist but so far they even refrain from that because they know that might does not make right.

    December 26, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
    • Muneef

      Well sorry about how you feel but you should know that at the time of Prophet Muhammed in Mecca and Medina all Jews,Christians and Muslims living together under Islam rule and it is even said that Prophet Muhammed died while still was owning one Jew money that he had left his own shield as deposit for to buy grains...

      This killing fashion is new for us even as Muslims either among groups of Muslims branches or with Jews or Christians faiths such actions seeds began only upon the realization of Israel 1948 only then the Zionists conspired and created troubles for Jews living worldwide to force their immigration departure to Israel the unpromised holy land.
      And now same acts are being made to Christians to force immigrate them to the west for one reason or another and believe me all those who do such things are mercenaries and not at all as an Islamic movement because nothing in Islam or Quran says Muslims should do that..! And those in Iraq if were manly enough and not criminal mercenaries would have gone to fight the foreign troops and not come only to kill their own people as a racial blood or nationality in different faith of God..?

      December 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
    • Muneef

      About killing the convert that is called as apostate it was during times of islamic armies and wars when an apostate was considered as a deserter, but really not sure why it exists since most or majority of Muslims are only Muslims by berth and not by actual belief of faith which many are ignorant with up to their teeth am sure many only know the word Allah or some told stories that they heard but not because they read or can read specially that not all Muslims are Arabs and even for Arabs and non Arabs each has followed a branch of many branches of faiths and maybe each has his own translation or explanation go believe or just follow the group with out true understanding...
      May God Allah forgive me for my comments although it is some how the truth,few who had no exact knowledge of the Quran and Islam that would get them firm in their faith have tried to convert in to Christianity because of the weakness of their belief and for the fanatical assistance they were being offered by some Christian preechers but authorities were involved to get them refrain from their intentions but never any was excuted and if any it would be in countries like KSA or Pakistan unless there are other countries that I do not know of...!. There were recent similar cases in Morocco but not heard any was excuted??

      December 27, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
  10. Muneef

    They say "christians-face-rising-persecution-experts-say" shouldn't they ask what could have been the reason for that although was not there before? Well now could it be these facts that has messed up the world?


    December 26, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
  11. David Johnson

    From the article: "Christians face rising persecution, experts say"

    Well, if it's true, I think they brought it on themselves. The Evangelicals are giving the Christians a bad name.

    Love and Prayers!

    December 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  12. Muneef

    As seems US and Allies have failed to conquer the world as atheists or say seculars although they in every latest wars they were distributing bibles but still they had no morals of their bible as we seen what has been done in the Iraqi prison Abu Gureeb as an example... As since their warriors were not determent or courageous as religious warriors so they thought of changing as a Chameleon to change color and become as good as Crusaders by becoming religious...
    The Vatican and such as Christian Famous are to spread in to the east to recruit warriors as believers for the upcoming religious wars among citizens of one nation and among nations... The fights in Gose, Nigeria is just a start to segregate nations and same being now followed by separating Sudan North and South for the future to come having them to fight against each other as Muslims and Christians.... Minorities of Christians in the East are being supported to rebel against their own to weaken countries frontiers for US and Allies to come with gates open or an excuse to break out fights and wars by the excuse of those minorities?? A secular Allies for their advantage declare wars and fight Muslims in the name of Christianity although they have long left back and rejected it calling it fairytales?!....Dirty Politics over and over again.
    Only because irresponsible acts like these they had created hatred towards Westerns at US or Allies and now the same they will generate for Christians living among other nations and beliefs as a repeated story of the Jews and Israel...

    December 26, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  13. Muneef

    A New Year Gained or a New Year Lost ?
    by Asma bint Shameem

    December 26, 2010 at 11:09 am |
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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.