After Arab Spring, experts fearful of Christian targeting at Easter celebrations
April 7th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

After Arab Spring, experts fearful of Christian targeting at Easter celebrations

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN)– For Christians in countries thrown into tumult by the Arab Spring revolutions, Easter celebrations may prove dangerous.

According to experts and academics in the United States, the changing balances of power in each country, along with a history of anti-Christian sentiment, have made overt celebrations like Easter a cause for concern among Christians. This atmosphere, according to the same scholars, will likely alter the way the religious holiday is celebrated.

"In the past, they [Syrian Christians] have had great outpouring of piety in the public squares on Easter," said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. "This time, I suspect it is going to be vastly different. They are fearful."

Though the geopolitical makeup of each Arab Spring country is different, Shea and other religious freedom scholars say that a pious holiday like Easter presents an opportunity for anti-Christian groups to seek out worshipers.

In a country like Syria, where the conflict is ongoing between government forces and rebels, Easter celebrations face risks outside of solely religious targeting. In countries like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, where the height of the conflict has passed, Easter celebrations now deal with the new power shifts in each country.

Religious holidays have long been a venue for terrorist attacks against all religious groups in the Middle East and North Africa. These holidays provide not only a meaningful day to make a statement but also see large concentrations of worshipers in one area.

According to Shea, who monitors religious media from Syria and Egypt, some Christians in the area are worried about targeted killings.

"In Syria, it is a time when Christian are packing their suitcases or thinking about packing their suitcase and definitely are going to be lying low this Easter season," she said.

Though Coptic Christian's in Egypt do not celebrate Easter until April 15, they find themselves in a particular state of uncertainty. Coptic Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Christians for nearly four decades, died last month of renal failure. He was 88.

Copts make up 9% of Egypt population, according to the U.S. State Department, but have been the target of a number of attacks in the past few months. In January, at least 21 people died at a church bombing in Alexandria and in October 2011, 25 people died and more than 272 people were injured during protests after a Coptic Church was burned in southern Egypt.

According to CNN's Ben Wedeman, since the revolution that removed former President Hosni Mubarak from office, there have been more clashes between Egypt's Coptic Christians and Muslims.

"There is this idea that Christians are somehow not real Egyptians. There is this idea that these people are not really good citizens of the country," said Albert W. Hickman, a research associate at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. "I'd say the mood is watchful. People are looking to see what is going to happen next."

Hickman continued to say that it would not surprise him if anti-Christian groups in Egypt planned to target worshipers on Easter.

"I would imagine that Christians are not wanting to draw a huge amount of attention to a huge gathering in a park or square," Hickman said.

These concerns are highlighted in a yearly report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"Over the past year, the Egyptian transitional government continued to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief," reads the report. "Violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians increased significantly during the reporting period. The transitional government has failed to protect religious minorities from violent attacks at a time when minority communities have been increasingly vulnerable."

According to the report, nearly 100 Coptic Christians were killed in 2011 because of more than 40 sectarian incidents. This number surpassed the death toll of the previous 10 years combined.

Voice of the Martyrs, a persecution ministry that operates a popular and powerful Facebook page in which American Christians post prayers for persecuted Christians around the world, has highlighted Easter persecution, as well.

"Holy days can be a time when Christians are targeted," reads one post by the organization. "Will you pray God's protection for Christians worshiping in restricted nations this Easter?"

In two hours, the comment was shared over 100 times and liked by almost 400 people.

CNN's Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this article.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Coptic • Easter • Holidays

soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. brad

    People are confusing Christians, People who "say" they are Christians, and Christ-Followers... all 3 are different.. Religion is mans way of getting to God, Jesus IS God's way of getting to man.. Atheists may say they dont believe, agnostics want proof, but everytime you /they write the date, they are confirming what happened over 2000 yrs ago.. which is one thing almost all scholars Can agree on, Jesus did walk the earth.. and He was one of 3 things, Lunatic, Liar or Lord.. and all the people throughout history to this day.. that gave their lives to help others, have been martyred, etc . do you think they honesty did or do this for a Lunatic or Liar? I think not.. You may of course beleive in what you want.. who you want.. but no matter what you believe, when we die, we WILL spend FAR more time on the OTHER side of death than this side.. if there's a choice on where/how you want to spend it, wouldn't you want to spend it in the best realm, place, existence as possible? Real Christ-Followers are NOT meant to "make" anyone, Beg anyone, change anyone's mind to believe or not.. they are to LIVE by example and be ready to explain why they have HOPE... Hope this clears it up for you, whether you believe or not.. God Bless..

    April 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      *yawn* did you say something? oh wait its the same bull***t that has been said forever "The only true god is Jesus and the only true religion is Christianity" and you wonder why the other 4.9 billion people(at last count CHristianity has 2.1 Billion Followers) hate and despise christians. You go around talking peace on earth and good will to man, but in all actuality you only mean that for fellow christians. anyone else well unless you convert your going to some mythical place called "hell". forgetting the fact that those who dont believe in Christianity also dont believe there is a "heaven or hell"

      April 7, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  2. BOO HOO

    Hearing christians claim discrimination is like listening to country club wasps bemoaning racist oppression from the poor blacks. When the majority tries to wear the garb of the downtrodden, it makes me sick to no end.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  3. LouAnn

    At least the Christians in Israel are allowed to practice their religion freely except in the portions of the West Bank under arab/Pali control, where the Christians are persecuted and driven out.

    April 7, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      Yup and Christians don't persecute anyone...................oh wait they do. in the 1,981 or so years that Christianity has been around they have persecuted just about every religion that humanity worships(with exception to Judaism). And its always the same message "(Insert Religion Name here) is a satanic cult and is trying to undermine our wholesome family ideals". When in fact there is only 2 religions in the world that recognize that there is a being named Satan. Keep telling yourself that Christianity accepts any and all religious ideas, maybe just maybe one of these days that will be true(though i wont hold my breath for that day to come to pass).

      April 7, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • JM

      Read the New Testament. Nothing in it condones murder.

      People who call themselves Christians and murder others aren't actually Christians; they aren't following the teachings of Christ.

      People can claim to be whatever they want; that doesn't mean that they are.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      JM tell yourself that the only part of the bible that is relevant is the new testament still doesn't hide the fact that your so called "Merciful God" does condone murder. Here is a direct quote from your Bible
      Exodus 22:18-19:
      "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
      Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death."

      April 7, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • JM

      You do realize that everyone is going to die, right? Even though we act like we will live forever.

      Let's see. If there is a God who created everything, why shouldn't be expect our worship and why shouldn't he have grown tired of the fact that people ignored him, worshipped random things (wood, gold, stars)?

      If the Bible is true, it's a little silly to keep saying that God has no right to set expectations.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      JM no religion is true every single one was made up by people who tried to rationalize things they couldnt explain logically that such an event has to have been done by something divine. your so called "Holy Bible" is proof of this. Ever since I was a child everyone has stated that the bible is a written testament of gods will, if this is the case then why is it written to sound like 40 different people talking at once? A mind dominated by religious ideals is a mind that will never grasp true intelligence or wisdom. Put down the book and try to live life by your own rules and ideals, not by someone elses rules(who you can not and will never be able to prove that he/she ever existed)

      April 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  4. Saint_John

    The internet is rapidly making religions obsolete. Thank phukking god.

    April 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • g

      the only thing the internet is making obsolete is intelligence, proven by post like yours.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • JM

      That doesn't make any sense. => The internet is making religion obsolete??

      The fact that it is occupying all of your time doesn't alter reality (in the real world).

      No wonder the Bible says God looks down on heaven and laughs at us when we deny His existence. We must appear very ridiculous to Him at times.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  5. Brian

    Since Easter is a well known pagan holiday for worshipers of Baal., why would christians be celebrating it anyway?

    April 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • JM

      Read much?

      Easter is the entire point of Christianity.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  6. Alfredo

    Yes, Christians and non Muslims will be targeted in Egypt and Africa. Those are the most likely but other targets can be expected....

    April 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  7. Semper fi

    He has Risen!

    April 7, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  8. Paul

    Christians are targeted in THIS country. All you have to do is read what people are writing on this forum.

    April 7, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Keith


      April 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • JM

      The Bible says we are to rejoice when we are persecuted for The Name. Jesus died for us; I think we tend not to heed His teachings to love when other people hate us. That's what's radically different about His teaching. The beauty of love and forgiveness; God forgave us; we didn't deserve it; we should love and forgive others.

      I'm trying to learn this. =>

      April 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      israelis always target christian in the west bank. This is nothing new.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Perhaps they should stop going to the state house and forcing their religious views upon science teachers.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  9. Balls McGhee

    The world should fear Christians.

    April 7, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • JM

      Not Christians who actually follow Christ's teachings.

      Here's the problem: everyone bases their idea on Christianity on the behavior of others w/o actually examining whether that behavior corresponds w/the teachings of Christ. Read the New Testament; you'll likely find that it isn't what you think it is.

      Christ taught love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, peace. Radical LOVE.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      What makes you think that you're right and Westboro Baptist Church is wrong? Just because you say so?

      I love when Christians trot out No True Scotsman.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  10. Flooby

    ALL religion is illogical. How can anyone believe this garbage?

    April 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • mork

      good question. if there really is a GOD it sure as heck isnt concerning itself with these fools.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • swohio

      Religion is a lot more logical than atheism. I mean, seriously....the idea that everything came from absolutely nothing, or the idea that everything came from a creator. Which is more logical....that it all magically POOFED into existence out of absolute nothingness, or that it was created by an intelligence so much higher than ours, and outside of our plane of existence?

      April 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • JM

      Because some of us have had religious experiences that are undeniable.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • jimsoutlook

      So swohio, where did this "creator" come from? Poof?

      April 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      "Which is more logical....that it all magically POOFED into existence out of absolute nothingness, or that it was created by an intelligence so much higher than ours, and outside of our plane of existence?"

      Where did this intelligence come from? If it just "always existed," why couldn't the universe?

      I'll stop before your brain goes poof.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • mema

      Flooby it is unconcievable to me that those who chose to be athiest could truely believe there is no greater power. You spout off on how we evolved or got to this point by natural selection. Its rediculous and there is no proof to back this theory. There are some skeletal remains that are obviously another species all together, but if that (evolution) were true there would be fossils galore of every mutation from the begining to today. But there is not. You want the freedom to chose not to beieve in God but refuse to respect the right for Christians to enjpy these same freedoms. And finding these so called missing links would only answer questions for humans existance, yet there are millions of other forms of life that would also (each) have tons of fossils to reflect there adaption as well. Where are they, wheres the evidence? I guess evolution is when the dog-horse-fish mated with the cow-cat-squirel and eventually we came to be. Then there the issue of those apes we supposedlly came from, yet if that were the case apes would not be here as they through natual selection wpuld be extict. Then there is adaption which is how its claimed we came to have different skin colors, yet that does not even begin to cover why humans hair color, eye color, any many other characteristics would have needed to change for survival. Because its just a theory. Evolutionists also say we migrated here from African continent, which just bolsters my belief in creation becuse thats basically where the bilbe and archiological finds backs. So I guess we can agree on something.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  11. mork

    At least Im free to say RELIGION IS DUMB. I can be thankful for that.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  12. gingersrule1

    I find it disconcerting that there is so much anti Christian sentiment even in the US. Bombing innocents on religious holidays is seen as retaliation for other events in the world when it comes to Christians or Jews. You have never heard of either of them strapping bombs to children and blowing them up in public on the threat that if they don't their family will be killed. Any country that threatens a friend of America threatens America. The Iraq war was unnecessary but the potential war against Iran's government is much more reasonable. If war is the way at all.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      As recently as a century ago, Easter was considered an excuse for Christians to go around killing Jews.

      Spare me your persecution complex.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • mork

      and a few centuries previous they burned old hippy ladies at the stake for being 'witches' ... F all these idi0t religious fools, regardless of faith.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • kch

      Well, instread of people strapping bombs and exploding, christians use powerful militiary to kill Muslims.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Joshua Ludd

      Christian conservatives are the ones trying to take away our rights. Christians are the ones bombing clinics and killing doctors. Its not so much that people are anti-christian as much as they are anti-theocracy. True, only a small number of christians kill doctors or bomb clinics, but face it... voters and politicians in large groups have a huge influence on our government.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Genia

      And God says bring it on. He is the creator and Almighty and there is no other but the living God of Abraham,the son of man will come and set things straight shortly. And that is the Truth, and all will see. Evil and the wicked will no longer be.Peace and Goodness will dwell with those doing good and believing in God through Jesus Christ.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  13. MikeM

    I expected the article to be about Christians in this country. The sentiment I read in CNN is that Christians are not welcomed in the USA. (Unless they are gay or illegal aliens).

    April 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • al

      what a total IDIOT, I see you have love in your heart............

      April 7, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • busterbobby


      April 7, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  14. mork

    blah blah blah religion blah blah blah war blah blah blah kill kill kill blah blah blah hate blah blah blah religion blah blah blah

    April 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  15. Rob

    Best not hurt my brothers and sisters of my faith. You don't want a crusade now.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  16. Patricksday

    It is amazing that people who proclaim to be "christians" have NO Faith in the Divine Plan. They will even murder people because they are scared. Your not even Gay (not that it matters to Jesus), and you act like you wont make it thru the interview process of Heaven. But your Right a persons record of Violence, Greed, Selfishness, Murder and Stealing follows a person everywhere.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • mork

      interview process? HAHAHAH! yoveu been eating too many magic mushrooms

      April 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • westwarddiscontent

      Eww. I'm still trying to decipher if what you wrote meets the criteria for a coherent though. Let's hope that's all you have to say; and lay off the caps lock Joe Dirt.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  17. that would be dumb.

    that would be stupid...like attacking the easter bunny. seems like they are trying to scare people into buying more securtiy junk or something.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • photoman1

      No it doesn't.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • boe747

      Yeah it does

      April 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • just sayin

      Yes it do. God bless

      April 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • photoman1

      No, really, it doesn't.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • mork

      idi0ts, it doesnt change sh1t. YOU change it. Not the freakin prayer. Good grief.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • James PDX

      Some of the most pious people I know have had terrible things happen to them, such as cancer and children being killed. They prayed. So are you saying that God answers prayers arbitrarily?

      April 7, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      you get the same odds praying to a rock.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • JM

      My mother died of a massive heart attack. Obviously we were sad and depressed; however, I believe in heaven.

      From one of Billy Graham's books:

      In my own life I have been privileged to know what some of the dying saints said before they went to heaven. My grandmother sat up in her bed, smiled and said: "I see Jesus, and He has His hand outstretched to me. And there is Ben and has both of us eyes and both of his legs." (Ben, my grandfather, had lost a leg and an eye at Gettysburg.)

      There was an old Welsh grocer who lived near us, and my father was at his side when he was dying. He said, "Frank, can you hear that music? I've never heard such music in all my life–the choirs, angels singing"–and then he was gone.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Jablonski

      really? cause i've been praying pretty hard for you to shut the hell up or say post something beside this stupidity like you do EVERY single time on EVERY single belief blog article.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Jesus

      `Prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!`

      April 8, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  19. Kanageloa

    Obama is not fearful, he's a muslim when he needs to be and a christian at other times. If the going gets rough he'll just blame Bush and maybe even Clinton if it gets him votes.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • UncleM


      April 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Loggan44

      Obama isn't perfect. I didn't vote for him but BUsh is technically a war criminal. Obama hasn't invaded anyone illegally. Yet now he sits in Dallas in retirement with no guilt.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • photoman1

      Cue the right wing conspiracy crackpots....

      April 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Rob

      Drop the Muslim bit would you. He is christian your ignorance is sad.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • mork

      the CIA and the JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF are who really make the calls. If you think otherwise, well its your right to wishful thinking.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • JM

      Obviously so are you. =>

      The Bible says judge not lest you be judged; in the same measure you will judge, God will judge.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • IZZY

      Izzy do not like it when people say they're "Christian" and then do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what they were taught.

      It's called they really are not Christian. Satanist? Atheist?? Absolutely.

      Just, Obama, please, quit borrowing the faith label to keep up your image. Be honest for once.

      April 17, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  20. jk

    Why are they fearful? Christians rise from the dead and live forever in Heaven.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • boe747

      The article says experts are fearful, not Christians. And you are correct for whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life

      April 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Rise from the dead. LOL.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:29 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.