Posts Tagged ‘Religious Persecution’

Why so few Christians among the refugees?

November 21, 2015
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.  Source: Newsweek.

The Christian community in Syria dates back to the time of St. Paul, who was converted on the road to Damascus.

Today the survival of Christianity in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries is under threat.  Syria has lost 700,000 Christians in the past five year, nearly two-thirds of its Christian population.  Iraq has lost more than a million Christians since the 2003 invasion.

The so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh) singles out Christians for beheading and rape.  It calls them “crusaders,” meaning that they are supposedly part of an age-old European invasion of the Middle East.  Yet Syria was a Christian country for centuries before Mohammad was even born.

20150327cover600x800revMany religious scholars fear for the survival of the ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.  This is something new, not a centuries-old conflict.

Christians and Muslims mostly lived together in peace during the Arab Caliphates, the Ottoman Empire and European colonial rule, and, if there was persecution, it fell short of genocide.

Despite all this, there are relatively few Christians among the Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees knocking on the doors of Europe and the United States.

An estimated 10 percent of Syria’s population is Christian, yet they constitute only 2.5 percent of the Syrian applicants for asylum in Europe.   I would have expected more, if only because, unlike with Muslims, there are no predominantly Christian nations in the Middle East region.

I don’t think this is because of intentional discrimination.   Asylum seekers are screened in refugee camps, and Middle Eastern Christians reportedly are reluctant to enter refugee camps because of persecution and abuse by Muslim refugees.

Certain American and European politicians have called for asylum of Syrian refugees to be limited to Christians. [1]

Barring refugees solely on the  basis of religion is wrong and possibly a violation of international law.  But there surely is justification for an affirmative action program for some of the world’s most persecuted people.

LINKS

The New Exodus: Christians Flee ISIS in the Middle East by Janine Di Giovanni and Conor Gaffey for Newsweek.

Syria’s Beleaguered Christians by the BBC.

Christian refugees discriminated against by US and UK governments by Harry Farley for Christianity Today.

Why So Few Syrian Christian Refugees by Jonathan Witt for The Stream.

Why the question of Christian vs. Muslim refugees has become so incredibly divisive by Michelle Boorstein for the Washington Post.

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[1]  Actually, I think it would be a fine thing if Texas, Hungary or some other place became a haven for the world’s persecuted Christians.

Something I cannot understand

June 26, 2014

I’m not well-traveled, and I speak no language other than English.   The way I try to understand why people in foreign cultures do what they do is to imagine myself in their place.  Usually I conclude that if I were in their situation, and had had their life experiences, I probably would do as they did.

But recently I read news stories about people who wanted to kill close relatives because they were of a different religion.  I cannot understand this.

One report was about “Josef,” a Pakistani man who is in hiding in Afghanistan from his Muslim family who want to kill him because he has converted to Christianity.   The other was about Meriam Ibrahim, a woman who was raised a Christian in Sudan after being deserted by her Muslim father.  She narrowly escaped being sentenced to death after her father’s family accused her of “renouncing” Islam—a religion in which she had never believed.

I believe that people have a right to believe in whatever religion they choose, or, to put it more precisely, I believe that people have a right to state openly that they believe whatever they inwardly feel compelled to believe.   I cannot imagine wanting to kill a relative or loved one because they reject my beliefs and values.

Naziism is the most abhorrent belief that I can think of.  But if a relative become a Nazi, my response would be to make him see the error of his ways, as long as I thought this were possible.   I might give up meeting him on a regular basis if all he did was harangue me.  In an extreme case, if he planned a murder or a dangerous act of violence, I would threaten to report him to the police.  But I can’t imagine killing a loved one or relative just because of what they think, however barbarous.

I don’t think these two news articles justify a general condemnation of all the world’s one billion Muslims, who certainly are not all alike.  But they do justify a feeling of pride and gratitude for the religious freedom of the USA.  I can’t imagine the most intolerant American Christian attempting to kill someone for renouncing Christianity and, if such a person existed, they would be put in trial for their crime.

Despite the harassment and prejudice that Muslims sometimes endure in the United States, I think that they not only enjoy more freedom than do Christians in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Sudan, I think they enjoy more freedom here than do Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Sudan.

LINKS

A Christian Convert, on the Run in Afghanistan, by Azam Ahmed for the New York Times. Hat tip to Rod Dreher.

Meriam Ibrahim freed again after rearrest at Sudan airport by the Associated Press.

Sudan death penalty case reignites Islam apostasy debate by BBC News.

Lifelong Christian may die as a Muslim apostate

May 22, 2014

 A woman raised as a Christian, who has been a Christian all her life, has been sentenced to death in Sudan as an apostate from Islam, because her father was a Muslim.

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced a week ago after refusing to renounce her religion and her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Christian man born in Sudan and now a U.S. citizen.   She said her father deserted his family when she was a child, and she was raised by her Ethiopian-born Christian mother.  She said she never was a Muslim.

She is eight months pregnant.  Her husband, who is confined to a wheelchair, was allowed to visit her Monday.  He said she was shackled to a wall.  Her 20-month-old son, Martin, is in prison with her.

Sudan officials said the verdict is not final.  There has been a great international protest of the sentence, and I hope the Sudan government will force the religious court to back down.

What kind of a religion is this?  I believe that how you live is more important than your opinions about religion.  But suppose, for the sake of argument, that your soul is doomed if you do not believe that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet.  What is the point of forcing someone to give lip service to that belief, or any belief, against her will?

Does the court believe that God wants a hypocritical and unwilling submission?  Or do they think that God can be fooled into believing the conversion is sincere?

I do not believe that the Sudan religious court represents all Muslims.  History shows that intolerance is not an inherent part of the Muslim religion.  At certain times in history, persecuted Jews and heretical Christians took refuge in Muslim lands.

The problem is with a Muslim sect called the Wahhabis, who originated in Saudi Arabia and whose teachings are spread through the Muslim world by the Saudi monarchy.  They are among the few Muslim sects that persecute other Muslims.  Wahhabis are not necessarily terrorists, but Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda movement arose from Wahhabi teachings.

The rise of Wahhabism is a historical accident—the fact that the Ibn Saud family allied itself with the Wahhabi movement in its rise to power in Arabia, and the fact that so much of the world’s oil wealth is under control of the Saudi family.

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