Opinion: Editorials

Examiner Editorial: Persecution of Christians and Jews is a human rights issue, too

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Editorial,Terrorism,Analysis,Islamic Jihad,Freedom of Religion,Middle East,Religion,Judaism

It gets too little coverage in the traditional media, but that doesn't mean it's not significant. In many Islamic countries in the Middle East, Christians and Jews are persecuted for their faith. The harsh reality is that in the majority of Islamic nations, it is either literally against the law to be a Christian or Jew, or non-Muslims are forced to accept second-class citizenship.

“It is not an accident, the persecution and mass murder of Christians by Muslims,” said Lee Habeeb, a Lebanese Christian and vice president of content at Salem Radio Network who has studied and written about the issue for many years. “It is not episodic. It is by design. It is part of a plan to destroy any competing narrative about God. To bully, threaten, and intimidate Christians into submission, or mass evacuation.”

The traditional media don't exactly ignore credible news reports of Muslims attacking Christians, but the coverage is often framed as an isolated event by extremists. But Habeeb argues that it's anything but isolated when, for example, more than half of Iraq's 1.5 million Christians have left the country since Saddam Hussein was ousted. The fleeing Iraqi Christians accounted for 40 percent of Iraq's refugees despite making up just 3 to 4 percent of the nation's population, according to the U.N.

In Syria, an estimated 450,000 Christians have fled the country fearing persecution. In October, dozens of Christians in Syria were killed in what one senior church leader called “the greatest massacre of Christians in Syria,” with 3,000 adults and children used for a week as a human shield. More than 2,500 other families were able to flee.

In September, 68 people were killed and 200 injured during an attack in a Kenyan shopping mall. The attackers permitted Muslims to escape the killing. In Iran, more than 300 Christians have been prosecuted since 2010 for participating in regular church activities, according to Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran. Writing for National Review Online, international human rights lawyer Nina Shea tallied 58 attacks on Iranian churches. Other attacks occurred on schools, homes, businesses and even a YMCA.

“Why the refusal on the media’s part to frame this as what it is, which is a war against Christians by Islamists?” Habeeb asked. Western journalists take great care to avoid calling mass attacks by Muslims "terrorism." Instead of calling the perpetrators “terrorists,” the word “militants” is used. Why "terrorism" has become a forbidden word except when describing political opponents is anyone’s guess.

There are some who deny such that Christians suffer significant persecution, such as R. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. But even he admits that “regional repression” of Christians is a fact of life in the Middle East. In any case, ignoring the fate of Christians and Jews in any part of the world does a disservice to the cause of international human rights.

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