December 31, 2014 | Mentioned by The Tower

Analysis: Middle East’s Christians Face “Existential Struggle”

The state of Christians in the Middle East is becoming an “existential struggle,” according to an analysis published in The Jerusalem Post Sunday, written by Ben Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Weinthal quotes a number of experts about the plight of Christian communities in the Middle East.

A goal of Islamic extremists is total Islamization and this has nearly been achieved in Iraq, which a decade ago was home to one of the four most robust Christian communities in the Arab world,” said Nina Shea, director of the Washington- based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Shea, who has written extensively about the lack of Christian religious freedom, said “Now, the overwhelming majority of Iraq’s Christian community, formerly numbering 1.4 million, are immigrants in the West, refugees in the region, or internally displaced persons in Iraqi Kurdistan.

With the forced exile of Iraq’s largest non-Muslim minority, Shea observes, “the smaller Yazidi, Mandean and Jewish communities have also been driven out or killed. Iraq is for the first time in history becoming entirely Islamic.”

Weinthal also noted the cruel irony of Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani tweetingChristmas greetings to Christians all over the world, while Christians in his country are persecuted.

Pastor Farshid Fathi experienced four Christmases in prison for practicing his faith.

American-Iranian pastor Saeed Abedini spent his third Christmas in prison for his Christian work. UN human rights reports have documented severe oppression of Christian Iranians, which Iran’s so-called moderate president shows no appetite for curtailing.

The persecution suffered by Christians isn’t limited to Iraq and Iran, Christians in “Syria, parts of Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan” are also targeted.

Another expert Weinthal quotes is Prof. Richard Landes, who observed,  “in the old days [Yishuv days], when the Muslims rioted and massacred Jews, they’d say, ‘first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.’ Now that the Jews have a state and can defend themselves, they’ve moved on to the Sunday people, and the only place Christians are safe is where the Saturday people have sovereignty.”

In an article written for the National Review Online last week, Shea observed that “[f]or the first time in 1,400 years, there will be no Christmas celebrations in Nineveh province, home to Iraq’s largest remaining Christian community and largest non-Muslim minority.”

The ongoing persecution of Middle Eastern Christians prompted Father Gabriel Naddaf, an Israeli-Arab Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, to tell the United Nations Human Rights Council in October that  “Israel was the ‘only safe place’ for Christians in the Middle East.”