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. Rudd

    Time to pay back Islam in kind.

    April 8, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  2. easter bunny

    i think you would have to be pretty bored to attack people on easter.

    April 8, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  3. Amanda

    Be encouraged my dear friends…Christians around the world. You are not alone….God is with you and He loves you so much! May you and your family have a safe and peaceful Easter as we celebrate our risen Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. God bless you!

    What then shall we say?
    If God is for us, who can be against us?
    He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,
    how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
    Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?
    It is God who justifies.
    Who is he who condemns?
    It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen,
    who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
    Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
    As it is written:
    “For your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
    Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
    For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

    April 8, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  4. Jerry

    Since you obviously must be insane to believe in ANY god(s) and the insane killing-off the insane does nothing but clear space for the sane, I see no real problem in letting all these religious idiots wipe each other out.

    April 8, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  5. jerry148

    Christians are targeted every day. They're nasty little pests....

    April 8, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • trav

      yep always targeted. people hat the truth because it shows them they need God

      April 8, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • chinaconqueryoueasy

      @trav..wrong..people realize they need zeus..

      April 8, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • chinaconqueryoueasy

      @trav..wrong..people realize they need allah..

      April 8, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • chinaconqueryoueasy

      wrong..people realize they need the buddha..

      April 8, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • chinaconqueryoueasy

      wrong..people realize they need a higher power..

      April 8, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • chinaconqueryoueasy

      @trav..wrong..people realize they need methadone

      April 8, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • chinaconqueryoueasy

      @trav..see where this is going? Please clarify your overly simplistic and unbelievably specific definition of GOD

      April 8, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  6. Andrew

    I don't suppose using Jesus as a mascot for the Iraq War could possibly give christians a negative image, Heritage Foundation.

    April 8, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • chinaconqueryoueasy

      Brilliant and useful..

      April 8, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  7. midasgem

    Its a pity they cry for help during the revolutions from predomitly Christian nations. Yet most of Islamic countries can't coexistence with Christians.

    April 8, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  8. EvolvedDNA

    Why not identify yourselves as humans...which you are, rather than a member of a group of folks who need to display their superiority in alien worship? if you are all human it may actually help in saving lives rather than hoping the death toll will be low. god is not worth the blood shed he demands.

    April 8, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • edwardo

      Very well said.. applause applause!

      April 8, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • trav

      your a joke!

      April 8, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Trav.."you're " and why.?

      April 8, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • IZZY

      To be human is to accept both the physical AND the spiritual sides of ourselves.

      How does God not exist?

      April 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  9. alfranken

    If Christians are going to elect people who they think have the divine purpose to instill violence unto Muslim people then they shouldn't be surprised if they do get attacked.

    April 8, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Andrew Harris

      We don't want this war. Look at what happened as a result. The United States is suffering economically. Sure there were things that were bound to happen one way or another, but as a Christian, I have to say that when we were in a time of peace of Islamic countries, they bombed us. Was it right for us to go over there and stir up a bunch of nastiness? It's hard to say because there were people over there suffering because of oppression. I can say one thing about all that that most of the stereotypical people of this land you imagine wouldn't, war hurts everyone, whether the outcome is liberation or destruction.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  10. Kuato Lives

    There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  11. renee

    To the ones who truly believe that Jesus is the son of God, why fear or worry what anyone says. Why fret or try to change another's beliefs. If u know the Word then u know that all things that are happening now have already been foretold. So true believers remember this scripture Rev 22:12-13. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. No matter what any man says, how many people he kills, or what he may believe. God is in control and when u leave this world and u most certainly will u will see Him and u will believe. So no arguing needs to be done. Why debate or be angry at Christians, why condemn them for their beliefs and why kill them? Quite simply u fear to hear the truth, you fear yourself because u believe in nothing. U fear to believe in God who u can't see and believe in what u can see. Can u honestly say ur not hollow and empty inside. Ask urself that, whose name do u call on in the dark when u are hurting and all alone. Who?

    April 7, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Andrew Harris


      April 8, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Robert

      FLOG Renee, it would have only taken 3.2 seconds longer to type "you" instead of "U" every freaking time!! Are you in that big of hurry??? I thought it became a joke to see how many "u"s you could put into one paragraph! ARRRRRGGGGGGG!

      Ab, C dem puppies?
      m n o puppies.
      o s m r, c m p n?

      April 8, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  12. vandi

    I started to have serious doubts about CNN and it's motives. Why in the world would christian have fear now, when they lived for over a thousand year side by side with muslim in the middle east with no issues? is CNN implying that dictatorships were better cause it serves the U.S. better and they are using the christian as a reason to say so

    April 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • prevuse

      no, you idiot! because 15months ago on christmas a church was bombed. and 6months ago during a peaceful protests christians were run over by military vehicles. and every week in rural villages a copt is murdered for being coptic. this is not CNN stirring up things, this is a muslim govt not caring about its citizens, and muslim neighbors who'd rather kill their christian neighbors than to coexist with them.

      April 8, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  13. André

    Hey. Wake up. The god myth is a made-up story. IT'S NOT REAL

    April 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • IZZY

      Why? Because I can't see, hear, or feel His presence? Much like your own mind? Your mind must be non-existent as well, by the same logic.

      April 17, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  14. M

    Happy Easter

    "The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
    It goes beyond the highest star,
    And reaches to the lowest hell;
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
    God gave His Son to win;
    His erring child He reconciled,
    And pardoned from his sin.


    O love of God, how rich and pure!
    How measureless and strong!
    It shall forevermore endure
    The saints’ and angels’ song.

    When years of time shall pass away,
    And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
    When men, who here refuse to pray,
    On rocks and hills and mountains call,
    God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
    All measureless and strong;
    Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.


    Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade,
    To write the love of God above,
    Would drain the ocean dry.
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky."

    April 7, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  15. Matthew

    Shame on the Muslims for being arrogant, ridiculous and show lack of respect for other religions.
    Perhaps we should start burn mosques and stop letting Muslims celebrate their holidays in Christian predominately countries !!

    April 7, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • IZZY

      Uh, no. That would only make things worse.

      "Hate is rooted in fear, and the only cure for fear and Hate... is Love."

      April 17, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  16. fistface

    Usually they list journalists and give at least a small bio of what they did and why they are qualified to report.. Instead you are told to be afraid of attack tomorrow, show you some picture they have in their archives and stamped a guys name on it with no bio (By Dan Merica, CNN).. I guess CNN is still asleep at the wheel.............

    April 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  17. jqent

    "Will you pray God's protection for Christians worshiping in restricted nations this Easter?"

    Uh... Wow. Just... Wow. As my vulgar Emmit might say, "you can pray in one hand and..."

    April 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  18. Dennis


    April 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  19. Screw the middle east

    I think anyone with half a brain is the object of discrimination in the middle east. When will these A-wholes just get along for once? I dont understand ow it is far more diverse cultures have less tension than these idiot heathens. I dont care if you are a jew, chrsitian muslim...if you are fighting over religion, you are an idiot sack of human filth who should be buried six feet under.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • IZZY

      But non-religious people fight over things all the time...

      Granted, only extremists on either end go as far as to harm others,

      April 17, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  20. Mohammad A Dar

    It is nothing compare to hindu pagan Christian hinduism terrorism, against Muslim and Islam, Hundreds and thousands of innocent Muslims have been killed by hindu, criminal Christian forces to spread hindu Judaism , criminal self center ism in Muslim countries,hindu criminal Christians must look at themselves before spewing their hinduism about Muslims around the globe.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Athiest Bob

      you must be talking about the athiests in CHristian clothing...

      April 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Reed

      Muslims are mostly left to worship as they please in the United States. The same cannot be said of Egypt and some other Muslim nations.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Name one

      Name one!

      April 7, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Andrew Harris

      I don't want to kill you, but I do want to point something out to you. In the Koran it says, "Verse 9:123 – "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you."" In the Bible, Jesus said, Luke 6:27-36:[27] "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, [28] bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. [29] If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. [30] Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. [31] Do to others as you would have them do to you.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:21 am |
1 2 3 4 5
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.