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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. Tony

    Well, is it not obvious? get rid of all religions and we will habe no more religious persecution!

    December 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
    • caesar

      but Tony –
      where would all of our soldiers come from? Slap a label on 'em, ship 'em out, to go fight for God and Country, and we'll call it pride and patriotism or something. Chrisitans make fine soldiers to defend the freedoms that atheists enjoy.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
    • ybs

      but caesar, you make it sound like atheists don't fight for our freedom or the good of mankind.

      Don't tell me that only atheists beat off, "w a n k e r = you!"

      December 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  2. et

    oh please! read articles by Francois Gautier, and you'll learn how Christian missionaries are exploiting and persecuting everyone in India! http://www.francoisgautier.com/En/

    December 23, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
    • Indian

      @et I am an Indian. And you present an article from Francois Gautier – a biased supporter of Hindutva (fundamental Hinduism)??

      December 23, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  3. Faithful

    Religion has no monopoly on hatred - as demonstrated by many CNN commenters.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
    • AGeek

      No monopoly .. but it's got a darn good head start.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  4. joe

    I just want to thank my parents for not brainwashing me into believing religious nonsense. I can't imagine believing in something as foolish as christianity or islam.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
    • Don McLaughlin

      >
      >> I just want to thank my parents for not brainwashing me into believing religious nonsense.
      >> I can't imagine believing in something as foolish as christianity or islam.
      >
      So much anger... on one is asking you to believe in anything. Just let those who believe live in peace and by their rules. You love by your rules.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
    • caesar

      Oh, poor, poor lost sheep...

      (the three dots mean I am patting you on the head)

      December 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
    • AGeek

      See, Don .. that'd be all well and good if those who believe would STOP F–KING CRAMMING THEIR TRIPE DOWN EVERYONE ELSE'S COLLECTIVE THROATS. *ahem* .. capslock got stuck there.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
    • Jeffision

      The "anger" you think you hear might very well be your own. I don't see any anger in his thoughful comment.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
    • JOHNRENAUDETTE

      Hey Joe you have no idea just how fortunate you are because breaking those chains is for some (like me ) a long arduous and painful as hell period (ten dam long years of guilt versus common sense) I am so sad that those of us who are roused from that fake life and dream dont organize and combat the liars of the world and try to reach out to the young minds who truly need that other perspective and can go ahead with life knowing thats its their one true chance to be what they choose to be........easyrider2407@gmail.com or John

      January 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  5. Don

    And christians persecute others. It all sucks.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  6. HonLincoln

    Best story of persecution in India.Some times ago, some body brought a video produced in Mumbai India, policeman was beating the baton to a person shouting slogan for other religion freedom mixed with anti India. Policeman was acting in video for few bucks.This persecuted person was getting Green card from Immigration service of USA. Indian consular had no objection to applicant getting green card but brought to the attention of INS, the bogus basis. There was potential of being flooded with thouands of green card applications. No mas.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  7. Don McLaughlin

    I'm not worried about Muslim loyalty, I can't be completely loyal to this country either... not when they torture people and disregard do process in the justice system.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
    • Islamisfocked

      Great – Move to Mohammedville where you'll fit right in.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
  8. Islamisfocked

    Just separate Muslims and Christians completely. No reason to commingle. Muslims in America are just "faking" it because they can't practice Sharia Law. Why anybody would want to be controlled by Sharia Law is beyond me. I named my dode Mohammed.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  9. sjalal

    lets fix this by killing all Muslims here. Oh, wait that process has already been kickstarted here. So who is worse off here?

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

      yah – yah – yah...
      we should put stars on their shoulders, round them all up, and put them in gas chambers!

      December 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  10. caesar

    So, why are we beating around the bush?
    Let's roll...
    bring on WWIII already. What's the hold up?

    December 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
    • Don McLaughlin

      oh good heavens... think of the children!! 😉

      December 23, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
    • caesar

      Children are only good for inhereting wars and debt...
      I say suit 'em up – it builds character.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  11. joe

    The main problem I have with religion is that it requires it's followers to be so damn stupid. Proof? The coments on here about the kkk and hitler being atheists. These are just lies that your pastor told you. Nothing more.

    Everyone should receive a 100 percent secular education. Religion doesn't fit with reality. Millions of contradictions between even the most believable religions.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  12. daggerstab

    Anti-christians and Anti-God people are one in the same, for they betray the true God and creator of all things. Those who have no faith in the existence of God, eat the tainted food that falls from the same table. Humans created their own religion to satisfy a need, therefore there is no perfect denomination or discipline that should proclaim to acquire a perfect passage to divinity. It is and will always be misconstrued and abused. Those who listen to God are aware that the truth comes from the most sacred place: the unblemished inner spirit. None of them shall deny that these following words are true: All life that exists on this planet is a devised product from the same seed, and is on a specific course back to it's creator. Evil deeds made pretentiously in name of God, hence a death committed in hatred, bears the mark of the beast. Truth is knowing that to respect God is to respect and care for all forms of life on this planet. This is the power entrusted by God to the humans. We are all on the mission of Noah.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
    • a

      Look at what you just wrote! How can you admit that humans invented religion and not realize that that INCLUDES the invention of the idea of a "god"?!?!!? One fact just leads to the next... be brave and see where it takes you. FREEDOM form the guilt, tyranny, and oppression of religion is where it will take you. It's very nice, actually, living on this side... lots of smart people to talk to....

      December 23, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
    • a

      you guys just make this stuff up and you go... it's ludicrous!

      December 23, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
  13. Brian

    Christians have been invading Iraq for over a hundred years and we wonder why they don't like Christians? These "experts" should do their home work.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  14. maclean

    Wouldn't you know that the atheist would show up in this forum to tell us once again how stupid all religion is and how we muslims, christians ect bring all this on ourselves. Personally in a debate between religions the atheist should stick to the nothingness they believe in and let the rest of us sort this out. I would rather hang out with a muslim any day than an atheist. At least a muslim can understand and appreciate the idea of a life after death.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • a

      unfortunately, the "religious" effect everyone with their issues, so we atheists can't simply "stay out of it". Why do you believe in an afterlife? Because it's too scary to consider an alternative, right? You are wrong, we think all of you religious people are basically the same... brainwashed, inferior IQ, weak minded, or deluded. You choose to live in a fantasy world, I don't. End of story.

      December 23, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  15. slickdawg

    So is anyone still gullible enough to believe that muslim is a religion of peace? tolerance? More and more stories like this make me think that Franklin Graham might actually be right.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • dawn

      The big difference between the muslim terrorists, and Christians who have committed horrible acts like the ones previously mentioned, is the fact that Christians don't historically do these things in the name of their religion. They do them in spite of Christianity. Muslims do it BECAUSE of Islam. And comparing the westboro nuts to other religious extremists is enlightening when you consider how many times the westboro nuts have committed violence like strapping bombs to themselves or starting fires or blowing things up. How many times have they beaten people up or shot at them?

      It may be muslim extremests only who are doing these things, and the majority are actually peaceful, but even if only a meager 10% of the worlds 1 billion muslims were extremists, then that is STILL millions upon millions of people who are actively trying to kill us. You couldn't even begin to gather anywhere near that amount of Christians who would do the same thing IN THE NAME OF THEIR GOD.

      And if the majority of them are actually peaceful, then why do they protest a cartoon of mohammad, yet stay silent when schoolgirls are beheaded, or when bombs get thrown into nursery's?

      December 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  16. Pakistani Christian!

    I was born and lived in pakistan as a christian, over there maybe 1 in 50(muslims) is a christian, all these white people and people living in developed countries(WHO ARE NOT MUSLIMS), don't know what mindset these muslim people have(or should i call them mohammadens), becuase they only follow or listen to what he said, they can "NEVER", i repeat that again "NEVER" be loyal to anyone, except islam & quran, even all those mohammadens(muslims) who claims that they are very moderate can't be, because there quran and islam doesn't teach them to be, they will stab anyone from the back, they all (even moderate ones) sympothieses w/taliban and al-qaeda. once you live in between them and you are born in a muslim country only then you can understand their agenda, "PLEASE BE AWARE OF ALL THE MUSLIMS (MOHAMMADENS) AROUND YOU', there only goal is to convert everyone (by force and sword) to islam, otherwise they'll kill you, right where you are, and they will do that from the back.
    REGARDS TO ALL MY CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS AND TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT MULSIMS(MOHAMMADENS).

    PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN (NOW LIVING IN USA, "GOD BLESS AMERICA, FOREVER N EVER. AMEEN"

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

      @Pakistani Christian. Well said! Unfortunately, foolish liberals and atheists don't just get it. They seem to kiss the ass of Muslim terrorists. They are quick to support and provide cover for Muslim terrorists but if a "Christian" does something wrong they jump on it to accuse all Christians.They don't have a clue that if radical Muslims will not even think twice before blowing them up.

      "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." ~Winston Churchill

      December 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
    • JOHNRENAUDETTE

      all so called christiians, muslims, etc are the flavor to the day and the agenda is to claim the others false and so alienate and comfortably seek to destroy the other......there is but one god and he is only in your mind........wake up...........enlightenment is not difficult and life is a virus that will constantly evolve and change...no matter what foolishness you fall prey to

      January 12, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  17. dawn

    That is an interesting way to put it. But look on the bright side: If you're right, then when I die, at least I'll never know the difference. If you are wrong, then you will know the difference. That's the downside to being an atheist I suppose. (that's what I'm assuming you are). You will never have the satisfaction of hearing me say at the judgment seat, " By golly, I just found out that you're right after all."

    December 23, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
    • dawn

      Actually, come to think of it, if the atheists ARE right, then THEY will never find out without a doubt either. Gee, from every angle I try to look at on the possible long term advantages of NOT believing in God, they just seem to fall pathetically flat.

      Oh well, worst case scenario is that I will have spent my whole life being happy. What a nigtmare!!

      December 23, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
    • a

      You're just scared. Atheists are very liberated and very happy. We are mostly concerned about living this life well, because we know we won't get another one.... We are realistic, and you are not

      December 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
  18. wowlfie

    Islam, the religion of peace! What a crock of sh.t is the world for even allowing this cult to continue. It's a virus on mankind!

    December 23, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
    • a

      hmmmm. "cult'. Interesting word choice. look it up and ask yourself, honestly if this doesn't apply to ALL religions... YES, even CHristianity!

      December 23, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  19. american

    First of all i live the south, meaning everyone is predominately Christian and i myself claim no religion at this point in my life. I am always the person arguing the side of the Muslim faith and trying to rationalize their actions, but things like this make it really hard. It are actions like this that hurt the muslim faith in my eyes and eyes of many. Where is the compassion? the love? What good is the Muslim religion doing for humanity???

    December 23, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  20. Crusader

    The next great Crusade will be upon us soon. Get your weapons and all non-Christians should run and be in fear. God wills it!

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

      I think you are a little late with the next Crusade announcement. But us atheists will simply sit back in America, enjoy our freedoms that all the Christias go off to war and fight and die for us to perpetuate our progenies.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:28 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.