While Saudi Arabia is one of the worst persecutors of Christians in the Middle East, it is a problem that’s getting worse throughout the region.
Since 2003, Islamic radicals have bombed 70 churches in Iraq alone. And that’s only the beginning.
“We’re seeing a very vicious attack on Christians in a number of countries. In fact, in many places in Iraq we’re seeing a religious cleansing,” Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told CBN News.
“That’s a euphemism. It means that Christians are being killed and driven out,” she said.
Shea said the phenomenon has affected the two largest Christian populations in the Middle East.
“About two thirds of the Christians in Iraq have already left,” Shea said. “In Egypt, we’re just beginning to see those with green cards, those with visas are fleeing. Those who can leave are leaving.”
“They’re very, very worried about their future because there’s an Islamist parliament now,” she said.
For years, Middle East Christians lived under the protection of long-time dictators. The so-called Arab Spring ended that with the overthrow of regimes like that of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“The old secular order — even though it was a dictatorship, military dictatorship at that, very oppressive for them — they nevertheless, were able to have churches and to pray as Christians,” Shea told CBN News. “Now they’re concerned that they can no longer do that.”
In Saudi Arabia, most Christians are foreign workers. No churches are allowed. And Shea revealed that, now, the government is even hunting down people who pray in their homes.
“There was an incident in December of 2011 against 35 Ethiopian Christians. These are Ethiopians who are working as domestics for the most part in Saudi Arabia, and 25 of them were women. They were abused in prison. They were simply holding their weekly service, prayer service,” she explained.
Shea noted that it’s not just the Middle East that’s seeing Muslim radicalization.
“There is a radicalization of Islam going on throughout the world and this is having an impact on the tolerance that there is for non-Muslims. So Christians are very much threatened throughout the world,” she said.
Those countries include Nigeria, North Korea, China, Vietnam, and Pakistan.
“Anyone who defends them who are Muslim — they’re being attacked and killed. And of course the blasphemy law in Pakistan carries a death penalty,” Shea said.
Yet this widespread persecution is largely ignored by the mainstream media. A rare exception is this Newsweek article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is described as a Somali-Dutch feminist, writer and politician.
Hirsi Ali wrote that the world often hears complaints about Muslims victimized by the West, “but, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway.”
“(It’s) an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives,” Ali told CBN News. “Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.”
Ali said the West needs to use financial and diplomatic pressure against offending countries.
Shea specifically points to the United States as not doing enough, especially in Egypt.
“We have to start speaking out and we can use quiet diplomacy,” Shea suggested. “We can use more public statements to signal that it matters to us, that we’re not indifferent, not a green light for them to continue killing Christians and disrespecting their worship.”
“So I think that we have a lot of levers to pull and we just need to start doing it,” she said.