by: Greg Burke
Christians have been getting pushed out of the Middle East for some time now, but the attacks on them have recently become particularly ferocious.
It’s enough to look at the bombing at a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, on New Year’s Day that left 23 dead, or the brutal siege on St. George Chaldean Church, a Catholic church in Baghdad that killed more than 50.
“If you look at the technical definition of what genocide is, it is the attempt to annihilate a particular group because of their ethnicity or their religion,” says David Alton a Catholic member of Britain's House of Lords. “And certainly that is what is happening to many of the ancient churches of the Middle East.”
Lord Alton, a prominent campaigner for religious freedom, told Fox News in an interview that radical Muslims target Christians as a way of hitting the West.
“They use Iraq as a staging post for that, and as a pretext for attacking groups they say are U.S. allies, and so Christians are in the firing line for that reason,” Alton notes. “It is absurd in many respects, but it is a very convenient piece of shorthand for those who carry out the attacks.”
John Pontifex of Aid to the Chuch in Need points out that the rise of radical Islam is putting extreme pressure on other religious groups, but especially Christians.
As the number of Christians falls drastically in the Middle East, Pontifex says, the radicals rejoice.
“Extremist groups have made it clear that because of this change in numbers, they are getting close to achieving their objective, which is the wipeout of Christianity in some of its oldest heartlands.”
While Christians are hardest hit in the Mideast, that’s not the only region they’re feeling pressure, whether it be slighter forms of discrimination, or outright violence.
Pontifex estimates that there are 30 or more countries where Christians suffer “very severely,” and that “in certain of those countries, that persecution is very endemic and very persistent and has as its objective an end to the Christian presence.”
Pope Benedict’s annual speech to diplomats last week focused on religious freedom as a fundamental human right, and mentioned the attacks in Iraq and Egypt.
Benedict also called for Pakistan to overturn its blasphemy law, saying it serves as a “pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities.”
Egypt responded by recalling Aly Mekhemar Hamada, its ambassador to the Holy See to Cairo for consultations. Before leaving, Hamada gave an interview in which she said her government did not agree that Christians suffered discrimination in Egypt.
And in Pakistan, the response on the street was a not a friendly one, as protesters burned the Pope in effigy.