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. KVM

    I'm surprised that the report didn't mention about the Christians that were killed or prisoners in Eritrea. The highes Christians excecusion rate is in Eritrea.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  2. Sagebrush Shorty

    The "experts" figured this out? Confirms my opinion that an expert in most cases is just a guy from out of town.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  3. Pakistani Christian!

    @islamisfocked..... Well said!

    December 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  4. wow

    Its funny how so many of you write comments as if you are scholars and noe everythhing about every religion. There are bad people all over the world regardless of their religion if we keep judging a whole community based on the actions of few we will get nowhere instead of acting like "scholars" why don't we actually learn some real information not stuff u see on tv..I can go on tv and say all cats are evil becuz this one cat ripped a mouse to shreds and people will b like o wow its on tv so it must b tru let's act like scholars now and comment on things we have no knowledge about..cmon people the real war we are fiting is our war with ignorance and generalization the sooner we overcome tht the better for all of us. And one last thing christians jews and muslims unite against the ones who ruin the name of religion

    December 23, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • a

      BTW... This is what a 'period looks like: '.'
      ...And who has ruined the name of religion? Surely you are NOT talking about non-believers? we atheists just sit back and watch you guys destroy each other. We couldn't stop it if we tried (and we have tried by talking sense to you). Unfortunately, you are all insane.

      December 23, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
    • ybs

      sheep, you are a hopeless mental midget!

      December 23, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  5. Agnostic

    Today Christians are being attacked, churches facing protest to not be built, persecuted for their under dressing. Hummm, sound familiar about Muslims in America. Lets see, Muslim named people are condemed, protests for building too close to ground zero, ridicule for covering ones head and double takes of "arab" looking people in the airport. Sounds like everyone throwing stones all live in glass houses. I agree with many posts here, religion is bad for people.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
    • ybs

      And what did Christians claim when they killed the American Indians? They felt equally persecuted then as now! 🙁

      December 23, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  6. caesar

    I want everyone to remember this Christmas season that it is not about a fat man in a suit from the North pole trying to break into your home through your chimney to leaves presents he stole... nope...
    It is about baby Jeeezusssss.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! Very good fairytale! Just ask any sheep! 🙂

      December 23, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  7. anthony haas

    Some many christians, so few lions!

    December 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  8. Ahmed

    I don't want to hear this nonsense of Christians being persecuted in other parts of the world. What about the daily persecution of Muslims not only in many parts of the world, but right here in the United States. Everywhere there are crimes being committed against Muslims in this country. You hypocrites. Stand up for what is right wherever it may be and against whoever it be against.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
    • Sagebrush Shorty

      Muslims deserve to be persecuted, prosecuted and executed. They brought it on themselves by their tacit approval of Islamic terrorism.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
    • fx61

      Hej Ahmed, why don't you shut up while you wait for your 72 virgins. BTW, is it girls or boys?

      December 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
    • Sagebrush Shorty

      Let's hear you stand up and denounce Islamic Terrorism. Don't talk about other religions unless you are willing to admit the failure of your own. So don't get sidetracked, just do it. I won't hold my breath.

      December 23, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
  9. Theism is bull

    I think that belief in any god should go down the drain, because religion clouds up what's important. But people will never learn.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
    • caesar

      maybe in the next life...

      HA ha..
      get it?

      December 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  10. Lee Oates

    The reality is that where ever Christianity went in the world and got established, they immediately started disrupting, condemning, and persecuting non-christians. They almost wiped out Native Religions in North America, and in the 1920's jailed many Coastal Natives for practicing the Potlach, and they banned native dancing and kidnapped native children so they could raise them away from their heathen parents. Good to see the shoe on the other foot for a change. The Muslims are smart enough to know how Christians work at destroying other cultures and beliefs.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  11. gg

    Wow Most on here believe that religion is the cause of all problems in the world. Just a thought...didn't Stalin get rid of religion and he killed 30 million people. Kim killing millions of his people in North Korea? How many millions died in the Crusades? Oh the current problem in the Middle East is not about the Crusades...Our current problem began after WWI and the fall of the Ottomans. France and England promised free government and instead mandated the Middle East to themselves.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • Jeff G

      You got it gg. Similar comment I posted...

      December 23, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  12. HonLincoln

    I am not a muslim but I like sharia for simplicity and more benefits. Think easy divorce,no alimony, four wives at a time,no child support and best of all. stone the Ex. Many man will support. I do know about womens opinion. Woman does not have much say in sharia any way.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  13. Islamisfocked

    A measurement of your god can be gauged by the success of your country. If you look at Islamic Countries they are some of the poorest, uneducated, retarded, backwards, stupid, smelly people and their are 1.5 billion of them. You'd think "some" of them might get it right. Now look at America's God, we are 300,000,000 strong and the most powerful country in the world. Who's God is the RETARD? Obviously the Muslim's god. Just look how focked up they are. Still living in caves and producing ZILCH. Maybe Muslims should make a new holiday. We can call it "Blow Up A Muslim Day" and all Muslims can cooperate.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • a

      says who?

      December 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  14. et

    @Pakistani Christian, if Gautier, a Christian/Catholic, has been living in India for over 30 years, and dares to call spade a spade, including exploitation of tribals by christian missionaries. Oh and if you think that there are no Muslims in India! Well, get an education, and a grip on reality! Any religion that converts others by using fear, abuse, misery, money etc, is basically sowing seeds for further conflict in the world!

    December 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • Indian

      @et I am an Indian. And you present an article from Francois Gautier – a biased supporter of Hindutva (fundamental Hinduism)?? He is no Christian you moron!

      December 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  15. RedRock99

    This is so Islam. There is no compassion or tolerance in this religion. Common man this is the 21st century! What true prophet of God would sanction such things in these times? Mohammed?

    December 23, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
    • caesar

      I think Glenn Beck is the next profit...
      I mean prophet.

      December 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  16. samuel

    The problem here is Murdering someone because they believe in a different religion? that just happens to be unhumain.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:41 pm |

      wrong wrong wrong..............we have the history we are what we are and murder and persecution are one of our favorite pastimes read the dam paper, history whatever source you desire ........like it or not we are animals and love to kill.....how could you miss that?

      January 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  17. a

    Have you ever wondered how/why/where religion started? I bet you rollers hink it started with jesus:) Right. A little secret: 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. Christianity stole/hijacked/borrowed (whatever) most of the stories/symbols.rituals it uses (ressurection, virgin birth, noah's ark, etc...) from older, more primitive religions before it. Such as: pagan/egyptian. It did this in order to bring the people/masses comfortably into the newest religion, which is used for social control and political gain. Read about Constantinople. (But most of you won't-because you won't read real facts/history/science... you'll just stupidly believe whatever your preacher/Fox news TELLS you to believe. It just so happens that JC was very charismatic and good at getting others to follow him. The local government realized this, took advantage and used it for their own personal gain. Because this instance was in a rich and powerful country... it REALLY caught on. Kind-of like silly-bands and Guess jeans! Same reason why any other major religion caught on. 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.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
    • 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 7:45 pm |
    • a

      Were you just visited by a devine being who gave you sacred texts and secret messages?!?! Thank-you for filling me in on how it REALLY is.

      December 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
    • a

      to daggerstab...

      And of course instead of addressing any of the sensible information I gave, you respond with utter garbage/gibberish. This is what you all do when you have nothing to stand on. It's almost like there is a chip in your brain full of religious nonsense cr@p that just starts spewing whenever any logic or intelligent information comes your way. Weird, really weird. Almost out of Stephen King...

      December 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
  18. Pakistani Christian!

    @ET.... just an article?.... has francois lived among muslims? or has he ever dealt w/muslims

    December 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  19. Whats Real

    It's religion that causes all the problems in the world. Christian's hate gays, muslims hate christian's, I personally
    cant stand any of you fools. I think relegion is the root cause for all the evil in the world, which is why I happily want
    nothing to do with any of you A**hole believers in any factor in my life.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm |

      you are so dam politically in correct and I so love your commentary lol thank you! We might be related ya know? lol

      January 12, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  20. et

    Also, don't forget to read this one http://www.stephen-knapp.com/christian_persecution_in_india.htm You see as long as christians play the number game and keep converting people around the world by using money, force, or exploitation, the problems will never end.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:37 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 7:46 pm |
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About this blog

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.