Throughout history, Christianity has played a central role in the Middle East and North Africa. Distinct sites from both the ancient and modern times demonstrate Christianity’s unique and vast place in the region. Tragically, Christianity’s cultural and contemporary position in the region is persistently under attack.
According to the World Watchlist Report (2017), the persecution of Christians is worst in Libya, Iraq and Syria, and is worsening in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Algeria. The attack on Christianity is most visible by examining the number of Christians who now call the region home. A century ago, Christians made up more than 20 percent of the region’s population, while today they comprise under two percent.
Continuously, extremist groups destroy renowned churches, and kill those who worship there. For example, in 2015, the first ever attack on a church in Yemen occurred, when the Catholic cathedral in Aden was completely destroyed by militants in affiliation with Daesh (ISIS). This attack was followed by the killing of 16 Catholics assisting victims of the country’s civil war at a Sisters of Charity Center in Aden. Until today, multiple attacks on Yemen’s Christian community occur every year, and in 2017, it was ranked the ninth worst country for Christians in the world.
Yemen is not the only example of a country experiencing newfound violence upon Christians. In Libya, 21 Christians were beheaded in 2015, while the number of Christians continues to decline as they are targeted in attacks by multiple extremist groups operating within the country’s borders. Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled from over one million to around 200,000 in the past 17 years.
Within the past two years, it is estimated that over 800 Christians have been killed because of their faith in the Middle East and North Africa — and this does not include the Christians amongst the thousands of civilians that have likely been killed in attacks that were not faith related, including the detonation of explosive devices in public areas, attacks using motor vehicles, and other terrorist attacks in the region.
Furthermore, governments oftentimes suppress and persecute those who simply wish to practice their faith freely. Sacred texts are banned by governments, as is the long standing practice in Saudi Arabia, where Bibles are confiscated upon entry to the country. Similar practices have been carried out in Libya, when former president Muammar al-Gaddafi was in power, and it is still carried out by the various groups in control of different sections of the country.
SOURCE: Richard Bone