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. Steve

    and in fact the black stone in Mecca is nothing but another hindu god ( Lord Shiva) it is basically the penis of lord shiva, Hindu women worship this black stone and pray for her husband's strenght, agility and wisdom. Muhammad was a follower of Lord Shiva, hence he worshipped and poured milk on that black stone since the 6th century BC. And this became a symbol of Islam in the long run, and the muslims in the world does not have a clue.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  2. ernsssss

    just watch it please....
    have a glmpse ot the past

    December 23, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  3. Mason

    Who do Christians persecute? Im just saying, but all Christians I know are very tolerant and friendly with everyone, even gays and people who have other faiths.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
  4. Reason

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

    This injunction is the only solution to the problem. Religion needs to be taken out of a position of authority in these nations, and put behind government and the will of the people. That's the only reason you don't have the Church of Virginia putting Catholics or Muslims into the stocks or plain old burning them at the stake.

    When other countries adopt this basic human right and hold it over the heads of the religious leaders, they can join the ranks of civilized nations. Then Christians and Muslims can get together and do some charitable work and improve the world, and be nice, like our good American Christians. Until the imams' back is broken and they are put in their rightful place, nice quiet mosques with no temporal authority whatsoever, this will go on.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
  5. ernsssss

    just watch it please....

    December 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm |

    To All those hateful Muislims who feel the need to attack christians. I hope you are not typical Hypocritycal Muslims who have found a heaven in the Christian west from the tyrany and curroption that leave most in poverty in Islamic countries. If you are do not be concerned there has started a wave of anti Muslim immigration porties that have recently gained major positions in Europe. Where Europe goes America is not far behind. Hopefully soon you will be with your brotherins in Islamic countries where you can enjoty the insanity of each other.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  7. KBinMN

    Let’s do an objective comparison. How many Christian charitable hospitals are there in the world? How many Islamic? How many schools have been set up by Christian missionaries? By Muslim (other than madrassas)? How many people has the Red Cross helped? The Red Crescent? I could go on but I’m pretty sure you see the point I’m making.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • KBinMN

      All I'm hearing is crickets.

      December 23, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  8. jesse

    if we just stop teaching religion we would be rid of most of the worlds violence!

    December 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • Xristmas

      Actually just Islam bro. Sure Christianity had a pretty violent past but the fact is that today no Christians are killing each other in the name of God. We invaded for oil, not to convert them.

      December 23, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  9. Kuske

    As far as religion is concerned, it's a damned fake. James Madison

    December 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  10. obama

    i think before blaming Muslims Christians should read bible :

    "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap."
    (Galatians 6:7)

    December 23, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  11. Scott A

    Want to get rid of religious persecution? Get rid of all religions. The Christians persecuted the Muslims back during the Middle Ages and have been persecuting them here in the U.S. for years. Heck, people booed a nativity scene last year when the 3 wise men had their crowns replaced with the more historically accurate turbans. So its not just Christians being persecuted. Get rid of all religions and you won't have to worry about religious persecution – its that simple. Otherwise stop complaining and deal with human nature like billions of others on Earth have learned.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  12. JohnQuest

    Least we forget that Christians drop bombs on cities that kill more than just (who we consider) bad guys. We become righteously indignant when one of us gets hurt or killed especially if it’s a horrific death. Somehow we don’t seem to mine if we drop a bomb that kills an entire family including the children. It is somehow better to kill from a drone or a fighter or a tank than up close and personal.
    For those that think that I’m some liberal pinky commy, please know that I have served my country have bled for her and would do it again if called upon. My children are serving now and the younger ones will serve when they come of age. I have no issue with fighting, but there are multiple side to every story, the victor, the victim, and the truth.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  13. Toph

    Wait, I thought the Christians here in the USA were Persecuted? YOu know nothing about being persecuted. Go to Iraq if you would like to be persecuted.

    Oh, and happy solstice. Considering that Chrustianity stole this time from the pagans. You Christians are aware that Jesus was born in the summer, right?

    December 23, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
    • Xristmas

      Iraqis are persecuted primarily by other Iraqis. What's your point?

      December 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • a

      No! It can't be! You have just rovked my world and ruined my whole life construct... now what will I DO! I can't survive not believing a bunch of Science fiction, hocus pocus BS!

      December 23, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  14. Boseph Heyden

    Would just like to point this out: the "nutjobs" over in the 30,000 year old pinky article are whining about how Christians lack understanding and are typically unreasonable people. Over in this article, a lot of those same people are actually APPLAUDING THE TAKING OF LIVES OF SOMEONE FOR THEIR RELIGION.

    I know this is the internet, but can at least one person see the hypocrisy here?

    December 23, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
  15. Santa

    God and religion are as real as I am......The Easter Bunny and Toooth Fairy agree with me...people solve your own problems!!...God is fraud!!

    December 23, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Hey Santa, don't forget me like you did last year, I really, really, really want a 1966 Fastback.

      December 23, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "Hey Santa, don't forget me like you did last year, I really, really, really want a 1966 Fastback."

      I have 3 of those. In fact, I have 3 of everything. Ever since I learned that all I had to do was ask. I also am getting tired of rearranging mountains.

      Jesus speaking:
      John 14:14 – If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
      Mathew 17:20 – He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

      Note believers: You have in these two passages, the ability to prove Jesus is a liar and a fraud.

      Think Happy Thoughts!

      December 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
    • a

      I have an island in the Maldives-just because I asked! .... unfortunately global warming will cause it to go under in less than 50 years....

      December 23, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
  16. Dave

    It's nothing new. This was prophesized 2 000 years ago if not more and it's going to get worse. Some people (most) cannot handle truth so they try to quell it. Ya' can't change prophecy!!.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • a

      .. unless "prophecy" doesn't exsist.....

      December 23, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  17. vizi

    iraq and christianity , well difficult to get convinced , are these some converts we are trying to safeguard our interest to one do have some bonding to the nation
    any religion in third world country other than the majority is always due to poverty and not by choice
    it may be christians in china , muslims in china or buddhist in china or christians in iraq
    converts only provide base for our church system to have ngo's and church system exported to these countries , in reality they dont spread faith
    dont know why we do this

    December 23, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  18. Abolish Religion

    If all religion in the world was eliminated the world would be a better place..all religions preach hate against other religions and try to change them..Religion is man made...people hide behind their religion and continue to treat others like sh1t.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  19. CRG

    God give us faith, but deliver us from belief. I believe Aldous Huxley said that in his novel, "Island". Unfortunately there is far too much ignorance in the world and religion feeds that ignorance.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  20. Don1776

    "Christians face rising persecution, experts say"

    Perhaps these "experts" should review the last 2,000 years of history. None of this is new for Islam, just more of the same, and it's not just Christians, but all religions that do not recognize the Prophet Mohammed.

    This is the only major religion that encourages and rewards violence against non-believers.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
    • Dave

      Thank you, Don.

      December 23, 2010 at 6:10 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.