Fox News offered an in-depth look at the plight of Christians in the Syrian civil war, and implicitly in the region. The network’s national security analyst KT McFarland interviewed Syrian Orthodox Bishop Dionysius Jean Kawak and Prebyterian minister Riad Jarjour, who are in Washington DC in order to raise awareness of the situation as the US presses for peace talks. With those stalled, however, it’s more important than ever to hear these voices — and not just because of the plight of Syrian Christians, either:
“The Christians, they tried to be neutral,” Bishop Kawak said when asked what side the Christians take, but they were in favor of non-violent political changes in Syria. Now, though, the violence puts them between the Alawites, Shi’ites, and Sunnis, and their political neutrality is irrelevant, and makes them easy targets for all sides as supposed stooges for one of the other factions. That layers on top of the centuries-long effort to push Christians out of the region, despite Dr. Jarjour’s efforts at ecumenism and religious freedom. They are looking to the West for help, and not getting much more than lip service in return.
But it’s not just in the Middle East where this persecution threatens to wipe out Christianity. In Nigeria, a series of attacks from the radical-Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram have targeted and slaughtered dozens of Christians in the past week alone:
At least 99 people were left dead after attacks on two Christian villages in northeast Nigeria this week, suspected to have been carried out by Islamic extremist militants.
Attackers flooded a Catholic church during a Jan. 26 Mass in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state. They set off explosives, took hostages and fired guns into the congregation in a five-hour attack, The Associated Press reported.
A separate attack later took place in the village of Kawuri, in northeastern Borno state. More than 50 extremists reportedly took part, killing dozens and burning homes to the ground.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, the Islamic sect Boko Haram is currently resisting a military crackdown in the region and is suspected to be behind the violence.
This Christian Post report gives a grittier view of the attack:
Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamic terrorist group seeking to eradicate Christianity from the African country and spread Muslim Shariah law, has been blamed for the mass shooting in the village of Waga Chakawa in Adamawa state, and also for violence that killed 52 people in Borno state at the weekend, the BBC has reported.
Terrorists reportedly attacked the village of Kawuri and detonated explosives while merchants were shutting down the crowded market. They also set alight to the homes of residents in the town, with residents still inside many of the houses.
Ari Kolomi, who fled his home in Kawuri to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, described the destruction left by the group as devastating.
“No house was left standing …The gunmen were more than 50; they were using explosives and heavy-sounding guns,” Kolomi told the Associated Press, adding that he was unsure if any of his relatives had made it out of the village alive.
The violence continued last night, and touched off an act of retribution:
Eight people were killed in religious violence in Nigeria on Friday, including a Christian family of seven, while a roadside bomb killed seven others in an area known for Boko Haram activity. …
In the first attack, unknown gunmen in cars and on motorbikes burst into the family’s house in Unguwar Kajit, a village in the mainly Christian part of Kaduna state, and opened fire, locals said.
“Christian youth provoked by the attack, which they blamed on Fulani Muslims, mobilised and launched reprisal attacks, burning mosques and houses,” youth leader Emmanuel Zadiok told AFP.
One person in a mosque died as it went up in flames, said Muslim resident Mohammed Yakub, confirming Zadiok’s account.
Christian deaths from persecution doubled in 2013 over 2012, and we are unfortunately off to a pace to beat that in 2014. The crisis of Christian persecution extends beyond the Middle East, and even beyond Islam, as John Allen wrote in his excellent book about the subject, The Global War on Christians, released in October of this year:
This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: the global war on Christians. We’re not talking about a metaphorical “war on religion” in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it’s okay to erect a nativity scene on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment, and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims.
However counterintuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as a powerful and sometimes oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their new martyrs suffer in silence.