Middle East (MNN) — Christian
Solidarity International (CSI) issued a Genocide Warning last week for
endangered religious minorities in the Islamic Middle East.
Todd Nettleton is a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA. He agrees
that persecution is high for one religious minority: Christians. Nettleton explains, "When you look at elections in Egypt
where sixty some-odd percent of the vote went to the Islamic parties,
including, in one case, the Islamic party that has been a party of attacking
churches and attacking Christians, there
is fear among the church about what this means."
However, he wonders at the use of "genocide" to describe what is
happening. "I think it is a very strong word. I have
not heard that word used by our staff who works in the Middle East region. I
haven't heard it used by the Christians who are there. To say there is a threat against them I
think is very real, but to say it's 'genocide' goes a bit beyond what we've
identified at this point."
That's not to say believers are blind to the hostilities aimed at
them. Open Doors USA uses the term "religicide" to describe
what's happening in Iraq. Violence against believers has already
created a remnant church there. Last
weekend, new reports surfaced about Islamic rioters attacking Christian shops
in northern Iraq. Compass
Direct News also revealed an Al Qaeda plot to bomb churches in Turkey and multiple
attacks against Christians in Pakistan and Syria.
The greatest concern is what the future might hold with an
Islamist government in charge. Nettleton says Christians worry that "'if
we have no way of earning representation at the ballot box because we're such
a small minority in the country, what does this mean for us? What will our
government do to protect us?' That fear is very real."
CSI is asking President Obama to call on the United Nations
Secretary-General to issue a genocide warning, to stop funding institutions in
the Middle East that promote religious discrimination, and to commit at least
15% of the funding the U.S. has set aside for promoting democracy in the region
towards "combating Islamic supremacism."
However, considering the length of time it took for the Obama
administration to fill the International Ambassador for Religious Freedom,
Nettleton says, "It will be interesting to see if there is a response from
the State Department to see what they do to protect religious freedom in the Middle
East, and particularly, the countries that are in the transition process."
Given the pattern in Iraq, could the Middle East be experiencing
another exodus? For persecuted
Christians, that's not out of the realm of possibility. Nettleton says, "Because these issues
are across the region, you can't necessarily go next door to find better
treatment and to find protection and to find freedom. For many Christians, they
feel like they have to get completely out of the Middle East region in order to
have their religious freedom protected and honored."
Nettleton hastens to add that there remains a remnant church in
the most difficult areas. Those Christians
continue to live out the Gospel and share their hope with others when given the
opportunity, sometimes from inside a prison cell. Keep praying.