It’s happening in Egypt, Pakistan and Laos as well as other Muslim-dominated nations in Asia and Africa, and its results are stark: a surge in attacks on Christian families and Christian churches. Now an analyst concludes that the attacks are being allowed, perhaps even encouraged, by government inaction in what is no more or less than the appeasement of radical Islamics.
Investigative journalist and the founder and executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism Steven Emerson says the pattern follows Islamic law.
“The Egyptian government [which has seen a series of recent attacks on Christians] hasn’t done what it is morally obligated to do, which is to provide protection for the Copts. Certainly the Copts are treated as second-class citizens. This is the classic dhimmi situation in a Muslim country,” Emerson observed.
“It doesn’t protect the large Coptic community perhaps to appease the larger Islamic community,” Emerson said.
Recent high-profile attacks have included the assassination of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer for his support of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi and the Coptic church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt. But many others are happening, too.
Director Sirikoon Presertsee, of the Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom, says the recent arrest of 11 Laotian Christians at a Christmas celebration in Khammouan Province is an example.
“The believers had gathered together to celebrate Christmas. The celebration was designated for the 5th of January. It’s common in Laos that the celebration of Christmas takes place from December to January,” Presertsee explained.
“The evangelical Christians in the country informed the central government that it would take place in that time. The information was given to the religious department in the country,” he continued.
But Presertsee says the government sent 20 truckloads of police to break up the celebration.
“When they came together that night, they were ambushed by truckloads of police armed with guns. They were cocking their guns as they ran into the house and telling the believers to stop and not move,” Presertsee continued.
He says the Christians asked to finish their meal, but permission was denied.
“They took them by force to different locations and the families didn’t know where the authorities had taken these men,” he said.
Presertsee says the police disbanded the gathering claiming that the Christmas celebration was a “secret meeting.” The police took the action even after the Christians who came from all parts of Laos had notified the religious affairs department.
“The police were coming with guns and the believers didn’t have anything. They were surprised by the police action after reporting to the village authorities that they would be having a Christmas service,” he added.
Presertsee says persecution is growing, but said it is having the opposite effect from what is intended by the government.
“People in those areas began to embrace and observe Christianity. That’s when the officials increased the pressure. The government has re-education programs for people who violate the laws, maybe one-day, two-day programs,” Presertsee added.
“Some of the people have accepted Christianity even after the government re-education program,” Presertsee added.
Five of the nine pastors have been released from the Khammouan prison. Four of the pastors still remain in custody at this time. Presertsee says this latest incident is one reason Laos is back on the U.S. government’s watch list for religious freedom.
“Laos was put back on the watch list in 2008 and could elevate to a country of particular concern, which could have a lot of economic and policy sanctions that might be imposed on Laos,” Presertsee said.
International Christian Concern’s Jonathan Racho says the arrest and detention of 30 Christians at a house prayer meeting in the Eritrean capital city of Asmara highlights the increasing intensity of religious persecution in the Horn of Africa.
“The government, they follow the communist ideology and they’ve been clamping down on Christians since 2002. Currently there are more than 6,000 Christians who are imprisoned in Eritrea because of they believe in Jesus Christ,” Racho affirmed.
“The latest crackdown happened on January 2 when Eritrean officials arrested 30 Christians who were praying in a private house in the capital city of Eritrea,” Racho detailed.
“We are very worried about why this is happening in that country because Christians don’t even have the basic freedom of praying together in a private house,” Racho explained.
The ICC Middle East analyst says that after a registration rule was passed in Eritrea, the Eritrean government only recognizes four religious groups, Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church, and the Eritrean Lutheran Church.
According to this policy, Racho explained, all evangelical groups in Eritrea are outlawed. The official church policy was the explanation for the arrest of dozens of elderly women in 2009.
Racho says the Eritrean government rarely charges Christians with a crime.
“Unfortunately the Eritrean government, when they arrest Christians, they never charge them with a crime. They put them behind the bars and that’s all. That’s why we want to tell the international community,” Racho explained.
“There is no rule of law in Eritrea as far as Christians are concerned. No one there cares about them,” Racho added.
Listen to an interview with Racho:
Egypt is far from without confrontations.
Terrorism analyst Daniel Greenfield writes that terrorism is frequently an “inside job,” meaning that the attacks are possible because of coordination and a mole “on the inside.”
International Christian Concern Middle East specialist Aidan Clay says the recent Alexandrian Coptic Cathedral bombing highlights a gradual escalation of persecution, coordinated throughout the Middle East.
“We have definitely seen an increase – and acceleration – of persecution of Christians really since the attacks on the church in Baghdad. They seem to have heightened since once al-Qaida made an official statement asking the mujahedeen throughout the Middle East to begin targeting Christians,” Clay explained.
“A statement was made during the attack on the church in Baghdad where al-Qaida actually associated, or made an excuse for the attack, by blaming an incident that was occurring in Egypt,” Clay added.
“Two wives of Coptic priests were allegedly being held captive because they converted to Islam. Of course, there is no basis for that statement. It was a grievance by Muslims in Egypt that gained such publicity throughout the Middle East that al-Qaida used it as an excuse to target Christians,” Clay continued.
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Clay points out that this was a turning point that seemed to be a springboard for more attacks.
“It would be naïve not to make a connection between what’s going on in Iraq and what’s happening in Egypt,” Clay stated.
Clay says that the report that the attack was done with government complicity is nothing new.
“On the church attack, there was no security outside the church which basically left it exposed to the violent bombing. Of course, that’s nothing new in Egypt. The Egyptian government has discriminated against the Coptic community throughout the past year and really since I’ve been following the issue in Egypt. The Copts have always felt discriminated against,” Clay advised.
Terrorism analyst Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT for America says this increase in Islamic persecution of Christians is the result of Islamic empowerment encouraged by Western neglect.
“They are feeling empowered because of the weakness of the West. The West symbolizes the strength of Christianity and for the last century it’s been weakening,” Gabriel observed.
“The radicals are realizing that every country in the world where the radicals are misbehaving, the radical Islamists are feeling like they can get away with anything right now because no one is paying attention,” Gabriel asserted.
Listen to an interview with Gabriel:
“The Muslims across the Middle East are feeling empowered that this is their time. They feel like Islam is finally getting the respect it deserves on the world stage and nobody is standing up for the Christians,” Gabriel stated.
Gabriel says the Christians in the West are neglecting the Christians in the East.
“This is why the Muslims are doing the massacring that they’re doing. It’s like the massacre in Egypt; it’s like world doesn’t care about it. This is why they feel emboldened,” Gabriel added.
The ACT for America founder agrees with Clay that the Islamic governments are supporting the terrorist’s actions.
“These actions are done with the approval of governments. What happened in Egypt is that the police left an hour before the bombing. So what we are realizing is that what we call supposedly moderate Muslims are basically in cahoots or not doing anything to stop the persecution of the Christians in their countries,” Gabriel said.
“What happened to the moderates in Egypt to stand up and defend the Christians?” Gabriel observed.
Gabriel adds that this is true of other Middle Eastern countries.
“This is the same thing that happened when the Arab countries expelled over 900,000 Jews out of Arab lands. This was done by governments systematically, from Libya, to Iran, to Egypt, to Lebanon, to Syria,” Gabriel explained.
“The world didn’t give a darn about the Jews so the world didn’t say anything. Right now we’re seeing the same thing happen to the Christians across the Middle East whether they’re living in Syria, Lebanon or in Egypt or in any other nation in the Middle East,” Gabriel added.
Gabriel also points out that the jihadist persecution extends to the West.
“Look at what’s happening in Canada. We found out that the Muslims have made a list of all the Copts in Canada, where they live, their pictures, their addresses and they’re targeting them. They are doing the same thing to the Copts in Australia,” Gabriel detailed.
“So it’s spreading and basically because the Muslim clans, whose loyalty is first with their clan, whether it’s in Egypt, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan, Syria or Lebanon and this is why they’re persecuting the Christians over here,” Gabriel said.
While Gabriel explains that Muslims worldwide have been empowered by Western neglect, she clarifies an important distinction that Americans and Westerners miss.
“Fully devout Muslims, devout Muslims who are following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad, following the commandments of the Qur’an. They’re very clear about how to treat infidels and non-Muslims,” Gabriel explained.
“Those Muslims are followers of Shariah, they are adherents to Shariah law, and so the law is very clear on how Muslims should treat non-Muslims and now, because the Muslims are feeling empowered worldwide, they are beginning to implement those attitudes strongly across the Muslim world against the Christians,” Gabriel stated.