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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. MattinTX

    So, Christians go and convert muslims to christianity and this causes them to be executed. Way to go christians. You continue your history of killing people in your god's name. Let me ask you this, how would you feel if muslims came over here and converted christians to islam?

    December 26, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  2. The solution

    Merry Christmas One And All

    The previous 24 hours have been brought to you by intolerance. For being intollerant of religion is only one step away from the posts provided. Being intollerant of a sincel religion is exactly what the posts provided imply.. be carefull on this day of good will and peace that you provide each other with the kindness and love that each of you want and none of you are willing to give.

    December 25, 2010 at 6:09 am |
  3. Muneef

    Al-E-Imran sura03:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful 
    This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Prophet!) by inspiration; thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary; nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point). (44) Behold! the angels said "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. (45) "He shall speak to the people in childhood And in maturity and he shall be (of the company) of the righteous." (46) She said: "O my Lord! how shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" He said: "Even so: Allah createth what He willeth; when He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it `Be', and it is! (47) "And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel. (48) "And (appoint him) an Messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay as it were the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave; and I heal those born blind, and the lepers and I quicken the dead by Allah's leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe. (49) "(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me, and to make lawful to you part of what was (before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah and obey me. (50) "It is Allah who is my Lord and your Lord; then worship Him. This is a way that is straight." (51) When Jesus found unbelief on their part, he said: "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the Disciples: "We are Allah's helpers we believe in Allah and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims. (52) "Our Lord! we believe in what thou hast revealed, and we follow the Messenger; then write us down among those who bear witness." (53) And (then unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah. (54) Behold! Allah said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject Faith, to the Day of Resurrection; then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute. (55).

    Al-E-Imran sura 03:
    "This is what We re-he-ar-se unto thee of the Signs and the Message of Wisdom." (58) This similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam: He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be" and he was. (59) The Truth (comes) from thy Lord alone; so be not of those who doubt. (60).

    An-Nisa sura 04:
    That they rejected Faith: that they ut-te-red against Mary a grave false charge. (156) That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";― but they killed him not, nor cr-uc-if-ied him, but so it was made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.― (157) Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (158).

    An-Nisa sura 04:
    O mankind! The Messenger hath come to you in truth from Allah: believe in him: it is best for you. But if ye reject Faith to Allah belongs all things in the heavens and on earth: and Allah is All-Knowing,All-Wise. (170) O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not "Trinity": desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah: glory be to him: (for Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belongs all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. (171) Christ disdaineth not to serve and worship Allah, nor do the angels, those nearest (to Allah): those who disdain His worship and are arrogant― He will gather them all together unto Himself to (answer). (172).

    Al-Maeda sura05:
    One day will Allah gather the Messengers together, and ask: "What was the response ye received (from men to your teaching)? They will say: "We have no knowledge: it is Thou who knowest in full all that is hidden. (109) Then will Allah say: "O Jesus, the son of Mary! recount my favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel. And behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the Clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: `This is nothing but evident magic'. (110) "And behold! I inspired the Disciples to have faith in Me and Mine Messenger: they said `We have faith and do thou bear witness that we bow to Allah as Muslims'." (111) Behold! the Disciples said: "O Jesus the son of Mary! can thy Lord send down to us a table set (with viands) from heaven?" Said Jesus: "Fear Allah if ye have faith." (112) They said: "We only wish to eat thereof and satisfy our hearts, and to know that thou hast indeed told us the truth; and that we ourselves may be witnesses to the miracle. (113) Said Jesus the son of Mary: "O Allah our Lord! send us from heaven a Table set (with viands), that there may be for us― for the first and the last of us a solemn festival and a sign from Thee; and provide for our sustenance, for Thou art the best Sustainer (of our needs). (114) Allah said: "I will send it down unto you: but if any of you after that resisteth faith I will punish him with a penalty such as I have not inflicted on anyone among all the peoples. (115) And behold! Allah will say "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, `worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah"? He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, Thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. (116) "Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say: to wit, `Worship Allah, my Lord, and your Lord'; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me upThou wast the Watcher over them and Thou art a Witness to all things. (117) "If Thou dost punish them they are Thy servants: if Thou dost forgive them, Thou art the Exalted in power the Wise. (118).

    Maryam sura 19:
    Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. (16) She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them: then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. (17) She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah." (18) He said: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son." (19) She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?" (20) He said: "So (it will be): thy Lord saith `That is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us': it is a matter (so) decreed." (21) So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. (22) And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: she cried (in her anguish): "Ah! would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!" (23) But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): "Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; (24) "And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. (25) "So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man say `I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.' " (26).

    Az-Zukhruf sura 43:
    When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: "Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me. (63) "For Allah; He is my Lord and your Lord: so worship ye Him: this is a Straight Way." (64) But sects from among themselves fell into disagreement: then woe to the wrongdoers, from the Penalty of a Grievous Day! (65).

    As-Saff sura 61:
    And remember Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O Children of Israel! I am the Messenger of Allah (sent) to you confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving glad Tidings of an Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad." But when he came to them with Clear Signs they said "This is evident sorcery!" (6) Who doth greater wrong than one who invents falsehood against Allah, even as he is being invited to Islam? And Allah guides not those who do wrong. (7) Their intention is to extinguish Allah's Light (by blowing) with their mouths: but Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it). (8) It is He Who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth, that he may proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it). (9).

    Al-Baqara sura 02:
    They say: "Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (to salvation)." Say thou: "Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham is True, and he joined not gods with Allah." (135) Say ye: "We believe, in Allah and the revelation given to us and to Abraham Isma`il Isaac Jacob and the Tribes and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord we make no difference between one and another of them and we bow to Allah (in Islam)." (136) So if they believe as ye believe they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing the All- Knowing. (137) (Our religion is) the Baptism of Allah; and who can baptize better than Allah? and it is He whom we worship. (138) Say: Will ye dispute with us about Allah, seeing that He is our Lord and your Lord; that we are responsible for our doings and ye for yours; and that we are sincere (in our faith) in Him? (139) Or do ye say that Abraham Isma`il Isaac Jacob and the Tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Do ye know better than Allah? Ah! who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah? But Allah is not unmindful of what ye do! (140).

    Al-E-Imran sura 03:
    It is not (possible) that a man to whom is given the Book, and Wisdom, and the prophetic, office should say to people: "Be ye my worshippers rather than Allah's; on the contrary (he would say): "Be ye worshippers of Him (Who is truly the Cherisher of all) for ye have taught the Book and ye have studied it earnestly." (79) Nor would he instruct you to take angels and prophets for Lords and Patrons. What! Would he bid you to unbelief after ye have bowed your will (to Allah in Islam)? (80).

    December 24, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
  4. Muneef

    Am Muslim and have lived and mixed with white and Anglo Indian Christians in my country land and abroad and have all respect to them as well as many Hindus as well working as expatriates in my home land as well as being staff in our business company...actually it is for me when I know that am dealing with who believes in God because only those I can hold and shake hands with in covenant and say "In God we Trust"?

    December 24, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  5. Todd

    After seeing some of these comments, i am appauled. Christians have been persecuted since the beginning of time. No one wants to talk about it though. As an American citizen, I know I am blessed with the freedom to worship how I please. However, not everyone lives in such conditions. Why can't people acknowledge that, regardless of their feelings toward Christianity or Christians?

    December 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
  6. The Solution

    Exterminate Christians! They are like any other insect and must be crushed for the pests that they are!

    December 24, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • z

      It is obvious that you are a Muslim or a radical Muslim ass kissing lib. Your hate gives you away.

      December 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  7. The Solution

    Finally, The solution to all the ills of the world! Just persecute Christians! Eliminate them and all evil in the world will cease to exist. Christians are the root cause of every problem known to man... from pedophilia to the salughter of innocents. Persecute them, eliminate them, purge them from the face of this earth.... Save Mankind from these evil people!

    December 24, 2010 at 11:07 am |
    • Silver Chair

      Meh. Persecuting us only makes our faith stronger. You're deluding yourself if you think hundreds of millions of people will stop having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not. Gonna. Happen. Ever.

      December 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  8. dixR4chix

    In God We Trust

    December 24, 2010 at 2:38 am |
  9. matt

    What an _amazingly_ specious article/story. An account of "he said" "they said". I sincerey hope you didn't actually pay for any education you may have received. If you did – demand a refund.

    December 24, 2010 at 2:28 am |
  10. Cyphonix

    Little children, don't you know that God and I are one? I eat demons and satan for breakfast, and I have power over my body, you may want to kill this body but I have power over death. I will show you even if you don't want to.

    December 24, 2010 at 1:04 am |
  11. Joe

    Why do atheist's leave so much hate posts? Why do they attack with hateful words? Maybe it's because they are evil or because they have no God?

    December 24, 2010 at 12:54 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Who do you percieve the truth (there are no gods) as hateful?

      December 24, 2010 at 12:59 am |
    • Muneef

      Atheists are fearful and know they are wrong but want to insure misleading all taking them to Hell so they would not go alone...

      December 24, 2010 at 6:59 am |
  12. warrior63

    Those countries don't deserve to have those wonderful people living in their borders and I hope they all leave. Christians in America have started organizations like the Red Cross who helps everybody, YMCA and lots of other groups that reach out to everybody in their time of need no matter what their faith is.

    If we treated muslims like they are treating Christians I think they would attack us without mercy, yet our country that has a majority of Christians shows mercy towards them. If the governments don't stop this killing of Christians and starts advocating it, I think it would be a different story. The Christians in this country would demand retaliation of some kind.

    December 24, 2010 at 12:43 am |
    • The Solution

      Its all part of the plan to keep humankind enslaved by this evil religion. It must be exterminated.

      December 24, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  13. wow

    Why do people just assume killing one another is the solution for all problems? You all talk about jesus being the savior so why don't you follow his lead and turn the other cheek. These terrorists want us to fight with each other regardless of our religion they want to tear america apart by getting everyone to turn on each other and by reading these comments we are doing exactly what the terrorists want us to do. Why don't we try to understand each others beleifs and yes I mean the athesists too and try to find a common ground and show these terrorists we americans can't be broken so easily I am a muslim but a lover of all religions and we all have something we can teach each other I denounce terrorism and just like many of you it angers me how these terrorists can do such inhumane things but we can't stoop to their level so let's stop bashing at each others beliefs and come to an agreement that we all have our flaws but we are all americans and we love the values our country is based on let's protect those values by actually being the UNITED states of america not the DIVIDED states of america

    December 23, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
    • warrior63

      @wow – Jesus does call on people to turn the other cheek but when a government sanctions against a religion and intends to murder those who believe in that religion then we as a group of believers need to stand with that group and denounce that government. We can not turn our other cheek towards a brutal ruthless government or else we will have another situation like what happened to the jews during World War II. It could be Muslims or Christians next time.

      December 24, 2010 at 12:50 am |
  14. Cyphonix

    We are to love one another regardless of our faith. Hear my song http://www.vimeo.com/cyrilviktor "don't let me feel your pain". Peace be with you. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

    December 23, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
    • ybs

      The vatican folks feel the same way, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," whenever they beat off! 🙂

      Check out the pope's yearning eyes in this video! 'http://bit.ly/popeisgay

      December 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  15. a

    Payback is a b1tch, baby!

    I've got it! One in ten humans is an atheist, so, kill off all religious humans=

    solve.... crime, world hunger, pollution, poverty, ignorance, war.... should I go on?

    oh and the added benefit of raising the average IQ about 30 points

    December 23, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
    • Just My Opinion

      Are you inferring that we could eliminate crime by engaging in the biggest criminal act in history by killing off 90% of the population? Wouldn’t that be a crime in itself? Are you also suggesting that world hunger, pollution, poverty and ignorance are all due to religion? Finally, are you implying that All wars have been the result of religion?

      December 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • ybs

      a, you summed up the sentiment on this board well! Just spend a happy holiday with your hubby & kids & let religious folks kill each other in the name of their respectively 'superior' religion/god!

      Problem solved. Peace!

      December 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
    • a

      You're such a moron. Of course I wasn't serious. If you would use your BRAIN, the reason most of those problems would decline would be because of population decrease, not because there would no religion. ....Excepting, of course, the IQ/ignorance quotient....

      December 23, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • a

      The above comment was directed to "Just My Opinion".
      YBS-have a great holiday as well!:))

      December 23, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • a

      ... and yes, MOST wars come down to religious conflict. I'm sorry to say, but YES.

      December 23, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
    • z

      @a, One in ten humans is an atheist.....and nine in ten criminals also is an atheist! You think you are smart but you are a moron. If you go to any prison in any part of the world you find majority of the prisoners are atheists!! Just because atheists do not wear any label you think all atheists are great people. So count people like Ted Bundy in your exclusive club!! Don't forget many of the mass murderers like Stalin, Mao etc. are atheist. Atheists are some of the most sick, convoluted and perverted people on earth because they lack any moral compass. No wonder, you are showing your true tendencies by calling to kill of 90% of the people because you think you are smarter than others!!!! And everyone can see your hateful and prideful comments all over in the comments section of this article.

      December 24, 2010 at 5:12 am |
    • Muneef

      z.
      Agree with you on your comment above and "a" is just another butcher.

      December 24, 2010 at 6:52 am |
    • gg

      Sorry but I believe the so called atheists are taking over the problem we face in the world. I read that they are peace loving but then want to exterminate those who don't believe what they do. Formal religions do not preach extermination and do not profess to end man kind. God did not create the death camps of Germany nor the gulags of Russia. But after reading so much of the hate that the so called peace loving atheist has for human kind makes me sick. I wish no harm to my fellow man and yes I am a Christian. Shame on you who hide behind an idea and think it is the only one out there. Just remember on your death bed to recite the words "there is no God" Most wouldn't take that chance.

      December 24, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  16. Taariqq

    what about the persecution of Christians and others in non-Muslim world, like India?

    December 23, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
    • The Solution

      It is what they deserve!. The Christian faith is a plot that was started 2000 years ago to dominate humankind. To keep humans ignorant and deprive them of life and property and most importantly diginity. No other religion on this earth has such and evil purpose. Exterminate them all!

      December 24, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  17. gg

    God is good. It are the people who attack in the name of God that are evil. I don't agree that God should be only personal. If you believe in something strongly you want to speak of it, but I can understand the major problems that people bring in the name of faith.

    December 23, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • a

      You are wrong... "Speaking" your spiritual beliefs to people who don't want to listen is RUDE, INTRUSIVE, SELF RIGHTEOUS AND SELF CENTERED

      December 23, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
    • The Solution

      The Christian God is evil! All traces of this must be removed from the history of mankind. Exterminate them and destroy all writings, teachings, and religious artifactes of this abomination called Christianlity!.

      December 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
  18. Muneef

    Wonder how Muslims smell as said when they do not eat pork? Or could that smell be perfume but because your noses used to smells of porks farm you can not tell the difference ? After all Muslims are ordered to use perfume and be on ablution all time? Muslims use water for cleaning after excrement while you use toilet paper only! So who should smell then? Otherwise wonder what sort of muslims do you have if they do really smell?

    December 23, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
    • a

      I use toilet paper and water...BABY WIPES!!!...what does that make me, god, himself?... should we start a new religion?

      December 23, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  19. alaskan1st

    It doesn't seem like anyones God is good. Spirituality should be a personal thing. Best kept to oneself.

    December 23, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  20. Eng

    Persecute muslims in christian countries

    December 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
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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.