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. Calvin Knutsen

    Does anyone notice that Christians don't go around killing people but the Muslims go around killing Christians. What type of loving God would want to kill people? How can you actually follow a religon that believes in killing people and actually believe that this is what your God would want you to do. God is a God of Love not of Death. Satan is the only God of death. This action is just going to make more people around the world realize that Christianity is the true faith of a loving God and these other religions are not. God is about loving others not killing others. PLUS I don't want to hear about history and how Christians killed in the past.....we are not talking about the past we are talking about NOW! Don't use history as a crutch to talk negatively about the Christain faith.......lets talk about today and what Christians are doing right now in the world!!!

    December 23, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
    • caesar

      Well of course saying
      "Does anyone notice that Christians don't go around killing people but the Muslims go around killing Christians"
      is simply a reflection of your bias in the eye of the beholder. You would not even know how to place yourself into the shoes of an opressed Muslim in the Middle East, which means you would make a terrible anthropologist.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • a

      brainwashed, idiot fool

      December 23, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  2. Only Way

    To Corbijn: Bible do not allow idol worship of any form. We dod not go around and kill them those who worsip idols and taking the name christian themselves. Muslims are unknowingly worshipping the black stone at Kaaba. Every muslim from around the world bow towards this idol set up by pagans initially.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
    • caesar

      Riggghhhtt. Go into any church, and look around at the mysterious symbolism, idolatry, and iconography. In the Middle Ages, people brought back trophies (fingers and bones of saints' gaves) and made huge idols out of them. Of course Chrisitans worship idols. Every one of them have crosses in their houses.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
    • a

      ...and Christians are currently using many many pagan symbols, rituals, etc... Please do your reading-you're an idiot-become educated-it's good for everyone!

      December 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  3. agrl4god80

    I'm astonished by how rude people are on here. First, for those who are speaking against Christianity...you should actually understand what a Christian is, and not base it off of what the media and/or those who proclaim to be Christian but act out in non-Christian ways (though remember we aren't perfect and shouldn't be held to those standards either). Secondly, the Bible states that a rise in persecution of the church (Christians) would occur in the end times..just another prophecy of hundreds that that have and are happening. Thirdly, for those that are saying that the Jews and Christians originated in the middle east and Islam didn't....If you read the Bible, in Genesis, you've got the Jewish line (Abraham son Issac) that are God's chosen people and and the Muslim line (Abraham's son Ishmael) stemming..both stemming from Abraham. Islam actually stems from Judaisim and from what I understand uses the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) but claims that the Jews view of God and the Christians view of Christ is all wrong according to Mohammed). Islam also didn't begin until the prophet Mohammed came about, which is thousands of years after Judaism began and even after Christian began. The Christians believe everything from the Old Testament and believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the scriptures as He himself claims and as prophecies so clearly proclaim. So anyway...all this said, I really wish people would stop trashing Christians and others, especially when they don't know anything about the religions that they are trashing. This is the reason there's religious persecusion everywhere....just read the comments under every religious CNN news post and you can see religious persecution screaming

    December 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • a

      Oh, honey... I know what a Christian is! I grew up in the bible belt and I WAS one for 20 years, until I finally really started thinking for myself. It took a while to de-brainwash, but it's done, and I feel so relieved!

      December 23, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
  4. JEM

    The US war on drugs and the US war on $ex has transformed the "Land of the Free" into the worlds "Prison Nation".
    In my experience, Christians are extremely careless in how they vote and tend to despise liberty for anyone but themselves.

    Christians tend to have strong hatreds for the reckless, the hedonistic and the young. It is this hatred that has led Christians to impose prohibition laws on the US in spite of the bitter experience this country suffered back in 1920.

    It is not all Christians who are hated as the Amish are hated by nobody. The Christians who are hated are the Christians who hurt others. In Iraq today, it is possible that any Christian would be seen as one with the US military and therefore draw anger every time the US military does something stupid like the videos we see on WikiLeaks of Appache gunships shooting up an ambulance with a kid inside.

    Christians in general hate liberty and freedom. The faith has nothing to offer but more tyranny, torture and death. In a place like Iraq, most people have long ago grown sick of such things.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
    • James

      Try going to a Christian mass. Oh yeah, all they talk about is killing and torturing people. They wlecome freedom and liberty but dont welcome people who screw up the world by doing bad things like taking drugs. Talk to any older person who has taken drugs and they'll say that they regret it. Instead of hating on Christians, get your facts straight.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • a

      i totally agree-you are a 'gem'!

      December 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm |

      Thank you! a different perspective refreshing.............

      January 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  5. 1whocares

    Looks like Islamic/Muslim is against not only Americans but Christians regardless of nationality and any other religion and nationality/ethnicity as well. If the so-called peace loving friendly Islamic/Muslims don't start cracking down on their own misfits within their ranks, any and all retaliation can be blamed on them for not correcting this problem.
    Bottom line – if they don't then it will be the world against all Islamics/Muslims and there will be a war of biblical times i.e. the blood will be knee deep or higher in Islamic/Muslim occupied lands and it won't be Christian blood.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  6. amanda

    Most of you are idiots read the Bible it said when the end is near the goverment will turn its back on religion and blame all the wars on religion. God exists get over it <3 Science sucks God predicts what happens to us not man SORRY

    December 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • caesar

      No way man... read Ezekial, it is way better.
      I think it is a firsthand account of an alien invasion. No sh!$ man... read it!

      December 23, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
    • JEM

      Governments have always done this. Do you think a government is going to blame itself?

      December 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • a

      Amanda... WOW! Top-notch smarts you have! Ever heard of punctuation, grammar and run-on sentences? How about YOU are the idiot (and yes, it's a scientific term-look it up). Maybe the bible says that because it's been going on since the dawn of cognizant human existence. Have you ever wondered where religion started? I bet you think it started with jesus:) right... no it didn't. Man created religion in it's most primitive form as a method of self soothing by trying to create answers to things they didn't understand. And those who STILL believe in religion are stiill doing that very thing. Am I talking above your head? Do you understand ANY of this? Christianity stole/hijacked/borrowed (whatever) many of the stories/symbols.rituals (ressurection, virgin birth, noah's ark, etc...) from older, more primitive religions before it (pagan/egyptian, etc...), in order to ring the people comfortably into the newest religion, which is used for social control and political gain. Constantinople's reign is famous for this. If religious people would just READ THEIR HISTORY AND SCIENCE BOOKS, they would be able to put it all together. Unfortunately, most most religious people wouldn't be able to mentally/psychologically handle the truth, so they ignore it and go on their ignorant way. Spouting all sorts of nonsense that is just ultimately idiotic and harmful. Religion will evolve and eventually it will be nearly extinct. .......Thank ra/allah/christ/buddah! Ha-ha! Oh, and you "hate" science... I bet you wouldn't "hate" it if you could only realize how many times it's saved your pathetic existence.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
    • ybs

      horoscopes also predicts! Both are fairly accurate. You should cross check! 🙂

      December 23, 2010 at 10:39 pm |

      close minded totally brainwashed trash needs recognition maybe? .....lol go to hell and get it over with

      January 12, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  7. Roy

    This situation is now proliferating to a level of major concern as to how muslims throughout the world are viewed. Though the fanatical groups, assuming that it applies only to those who are emphasing Mohammed as the truth while Jews, Christians and numerous others have established within there reglious beliefs the true definition of God, will pave the way toward an unprecedented move by many political system to impose outright sanctions against all religion just to harness the anarchy that is about to come.

    Freedom of religion and expression is now on notice, for we as a people really do not know within the hearts and minds of all muslims how they view all other sects. Granted they proclaim peace as a fundamental rule, but how do they really view the significance of the orginal Hebrew and Greek texts. How do they view the Holy Bible which is the oldest book on the face of the earth, has survived for thousands of years, has significant elasticity, records all world powers that have existed, provides insight as to the furture of mankind, provides hope for all of mankind if they acknowledge the creators real name YahWeh, Jah, Jehovah and also the promise of a paradise earth and life everlasting here on earth, not heaven.

    One final point, and just think about it, this great book of superior knowledge and wisdom quotes "A mere young boy will touch the head of a cobra and not be harmed" Another quote: "Death will be no more" There contains in this great book the Bible an actual roadmap for all of mankind, yet only less than 10 million people on this planet acknowledge its true value, while some are still attempting to absorb and understand what it means to them personally.

    I request that everyone who has responded to this news item, do yourself a favor, watch the transformation, anarchy, persecution, chaos and upheaval that is about to unfold throughout the world reglions, because of what we are currently experiencing right now. In all due respect to everyone don't say I didn't tell you, for I do not want to be accountable for not putting up on everyones radar screen.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
    • a

      Oh, thank-you, ROY for warning us of......

      Oh I'm sorry, you never really made a point, did you?

      That's because religious fanatics like you just LOVE to spout, babble, and spew nonsense conjecture.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:13 pm |

      you are an addict.......perfectly understandable give the fact you have been preached to from the beginning of your life. ....have faith....equals be a sucker(P.T. Barnum), this book was written by well meaning me like yourself to follow the dream (god) and be saved (don't die) religion is much like drug addiction it releases the same chemicals in the brain and produces the same effect of "well being" wake up, back up view everything from a distance and for gods sake lol, think............men love to control men and what better way to do it?

      January 12, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  8. Don McLaughlin

    >> Jesus lives!
    Jesus saves... he was in line at the bank just the other day depositing his paycheck. ;-p

    December 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  9. Don McLaughlin

    >> where is the article about pagan and wiccan parents having their families
    >> torn apart due to a Christian judicial system?
    Well... he's got ya there. We Pagans have definitely been treated as second class citizens by the judicial system in this country. It isn't all one sided, there have been some significant victories... but there are also some pretty awful stories too...

    December 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  10. maxwellhouse

    Jesus lives!

    December 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
    • a

      I'm sorry to break it to you, but that charismatic human being who was able to build quite a following, is indeed dead. It happened quite a while ago, in fact.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
    • caesar

      I saw this sign on the side of the road...
      Why are Christians fixated on the return of baby Jesus? Wouldn't this ark the end-of-times? That's such a bummer man. Such a pessimistic bunch.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  11. a

    Hearing that Christians are being persecuted, FIRST, shouldn't be a surprise, or news for that matter, because religious persecution has always existed. SECOND, it should upset you no more or less than hearing that any one of any other religion is being persecuted. Try to imagine if you were born a muslim. You love your family, your country, your home... We are all human.

    Religion is on it's way out as they continue exterminating each other, and science becomes more and more difficult to ignore. However, there will always be some fanatic group of crazies, weak-minded, helpless brain-washed, or just low IQ people around... Eventually, and I mean if you look LONG TERM, religion will become less and less dominant as we evolve and progress. I wish I could be there to see that happen.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  12. amberlou

    I don't care who you are or what you believe, but persecuting others is never, ever OK.

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

      that's right, you are well on your way to being an atheist:)

      December 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • caesar

      If you are typing on a laptop computer with WIFI in it, or own a cell phone, (both products have Coltan in them), then you personally are persecuting poor people in the Congo right now.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  13. NM


    December 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  14. spiral

    Any person persecuted for religion is horrid in and of itself bit where is the article about pagan and wiccan parents having their families torn apart due to a Christian judicial system? There are tjoae who still live in fear In our "great and free country" perhaps its time to take a good look at our own....

    December 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
  15. Don McLaughlin

    >>Truth: There is a world conflict between civilization and Islam. It will not end until tens of
    >> millions of human beings have been incinerated.
    OMG!! How can you say such things... Think of the Children!! 😮

    December 23, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  16. Jeffision

    The world is getting tired of Christians bullying everyone who don't believe in their strange fantasies. Did Christians really think that their aggression would have no blowback? Act like animals, you'll be treated like animals.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
    • Hellscreamgold

      Ever read the Qu'ran? It's all about making EVERY non-believer either into a) a believer (i.e. convert), b) slave, c) dead.

      Every religion has their fanatics (Christians had the Crusades and Inquisition, Islam has, well, Islam itself, etc, etc). But I can tell you this – most other religions do NOT dictate that all others must convert, or be slaves, or die. Islam DICTATES that.

      Learn before you speak. Islam is NOT "peaceful" – their own edicts state that they can lull others into a stupor, then strike.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • Jeffision

      Visualize a post-religious era.

      December 23, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
  17. Brian

    It seems like every story starts with the word "expert." If you want to give your bias some credibility you quote someone who agrees with you and call them an "expert." Most historians would point out that most of the "persecution" over the past two thousand years was done by Christians against non Christians.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  18. LiberateUs

    American will soon follow Iran's footsteps. I foresaw our countries future in a dream 2 nights ago. Lunar Eclipses give me strange dreams, to be honest

    December 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • caesar

      Though I agree with you that the US will become as extreme as Iran, I think it might have ben focusing on the news pumping out of your TV and not the moon.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
  19. Paul Ronco

    Wow how surprising. Oh well, it must be because we are making them free and they hate our freedoms.

    December 23, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  20. brittbritt


    December 23, 2010 at 6:51 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.