Persecution and killing of Christians is on the rise across the world, US politicians largely remain silent

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In London, England, a small band of Pakistani Christians and supporters protest in 2009 against the use of blasphemy laws in Pakistan as an excuse for the persecution of minorities (Image credit: helen.2006/Flickr)

The persecution and killing of Christians, especially in the Middle East and Africa, has been on the rise as of late and there is a deafening silence in Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, at least 85 Christians were killed outside of a church in Pakistan and earlier this month the historic Christian town of Maaloula in Syria fell to Islamist rebels, leaving many Christians in the crossfire.

The Christian community in Egypt is also under attack with violence constantly on the rise, as I reported last month.

In Pakistan, Christians face regular discrimination and persecution under the country’s “discriminatory blasphemy laws” under which Christians can be sentenced to death or imprisoned, according to the Telegraph.

When attackers stormed a shopping mall and held hostages in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Sept. 21, they reportedly targeted Christians.

The attackers called out to the people in the mall in Swahili during a break in the gunfight, instructing Muslims to identify themselves and leave, according to the Guardian.

Joshua Hakim told the Guardian that he covered “the Christian name on his ID with his thumb he approached one of the attackers, whom he described as Somali, and showed them the plastic card.”

“They told me to go,” Hakim said. “Then an Indian man came forward and they said, ‘What is the name of Muhammad’s mother?’ When he couldn’t answer they just shot him.”

Unfortunately, few politicians in the United States seem to be taking notice of this trend, let alone making any effort to push back against it.

Colbert King, writing for The Washington Post, notes that Christians are suffering regularly in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Boko Haram are “known to have assaulted more than 160 Christians or people thought to be Christian in more than 30 incidents,” according to King.

Over the past year, Boko Haram bombed, burned or attacked 50 churches, killing at least 366 people over the past year alone, according to a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Religion Today charges “the U.S. and other Western governments” with ignoring attacks on Christians in northern Nigerian states.

These are just a few examples of a widespread trend of persecution around the globe.

The Christian population in the Middle East especially has been significantly reduced. Just 100 years ago, 20 percent of the Middle Eastern population was Christian. Now that number has been reduced to a mere five percent of the total population, according to a 2012 PBS report.

Approximately 75% of people across the globe live in countries with “high government restrictions on religion or high social hostilities involving religion,” according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study.

“In the year ending in mid-2010, government or social harassment of Christians was reported in 111 countries; the previous high was 107 countries in the first year of the study,” according to Pew.

Jewish people are the second most harassed, reporting government or social harassment in 68 countries in the year ending mid-2010.

Across all four years of study, between mid-2006 and mid-2010, Christians were harassed in 139 countries, Muslims in 121 and Jewish people in 121, according to Pew. Christians were the most likely of any group to experience harassment by government officials or organizations.

Unfortunately, few politicians in the United States seem to be taking notice of this trend, let alone making any effort to push back against it.

Rep. Frank World (R-Va.) wrote a letter to 300 Protestant and Catholic leaders in January, calling on American Christians to speak out about the persecution of their brothers and sisters abroad.

“Can you, as a leader in the church, help?” Wolf asked. “Are you pained by these accounts of persecution? Will you use your sphere of influence to raise the profile of this issue—be it through a sermon, writing or media interview?”

Last year, Wolf and Rep. Anna Enshoo (D-Calif.) co-sponsored legislation to create a special envoy to the State Department tasked with advocating for religious minorities in the Middle East and South-Central Asia.

While the legislation passed in the House, it languished in the Senate.

The Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013 was reintroduced in January, passed the House again and still sits in the Senate. On March 22 it was referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the Daily Beast that there is no date for it to be taken up.

Writing for the Daily Beast, Kirsten Powers asks: “When American leaders meet with the Saudi government, where is the public outcry demanding they confront the Saudis for fomenting hatred of Christians, Jews, and even Muslim minorities through their propagandistic tracts and textbooks? In the debate on Syria, why has the fate of Christians and other religious minorities been almost completely ignored?”

“We in the West must speak out on behalf of the persecuted church around the world,” Wolf wrote in closing his letter.

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