On Sunday, September 22, 2013, as worshippers left the All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, two Muslim suicide bombers denoted six kilograms of explosives killing 81 and injuring over 140. This attack follows a March attack against Christians in Lahore, Pakistan when a Muslim mob burned two churches and more than 100 houses in a Christian neighborhood.
On Monday, even as Pakistani Christians mourned those killed in the church attack, police and Special Forces in Nairobi, Kenya continued their attempt to rescue hostages and secure the Westgate Mall after the Islamic terror group, al-Shabab’s attack on the facility on Saturday. Kenyan Officials said at least 62 people were killed, and 200 wounded. One witness to the attack said the terrorists told Muslims “to stand up and go,” while they targeted non-Muslims.
Last week, Islamist group Boko Haram militants killed 159 people in roadside attacks in Nigeria. The group, whose name means, “western education is sinful” in the Hausa language wants to revive the Islamic kingdom. The group, founded in 2001, began violent operations in 2009 and has since killed over 4,000 people through attacks targeting Christian churches, police, a few mosques and the military. Last year there were over 765 churches destroyed in Nigeria.
In Egypt, nearly 100 Christian churches have been attacked, vandalized or burned since an August 14 raid by Egyptian security forces on two Islamist protest camps in Cairo. A spokesperson for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights was quoted as saying, “In contemporary history, from the days of Muhammad Ali [founder of modern Egypt] until now, this is the worst level of targeted violence against Copts and their properties that I know of.”
Kidnapping young Christians by Muslims has also become increasingly common in Egypt. Wahid Jacob, a young Christian was killed in August when his family could not raise the 1,200,000 Egyptian pounds ($171,000) ransom demanded by his captors. His body was dumped in a field bearing signs of torture. One report regarding the kidnapping and subsequent murder of a 6-year-old Christian boy gives a sense of the persecution Christians are facing. The report said the “family is in tatters after paying 30,000 pounds to the abductor, who still killed the innocent child and threw his body into the toilet of his home, where the body, swollen and moldy, was exhumed.”
International Christian Concern reports, “hundreds of Christian girls…have been abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and forced into marriage in Egypt. These incidents are often accompanied by acts of violence, including rape, beatings, and other forms of physical and mental abuse.”
Since January 1, 2013 there have been 500 Christians who have been killed and 804 who have been injured in attacks by Islamic militants in nations ranging from Bangladesh to the United States. The nations with the most Christian murders include Nigeria (277), Pakistan (74), Syria (64) and Egypt (40).
In 1900, twenty percent of the Middle East was Christian. It is estimated that today less than 2% of the region is Christian. Because of continuing attacks against believers, the Christian presence in the Middle East has declined sharply in the past 100 years. For instance, in Iraq the Christian population has gone from 35% to 1.5%; in Syria from 40% to 10%; and in Iran from 15% to 2%. The number of Christians currently considered to be living under persecution range from 100 to 200 million, and forty-two of the top fifty countries persecuting Christians either have a Muslim majority or a sizeable Muslim population.
Prior to the war in Syria, Christians lived peacefully in the nation, but in a civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives, rebel forces (often made up of foreign radical Islamists) have killed thousands. According to the United Nations the war has forced 2 million Syrians to flee their homes, including 450,000 of Syria’s 2.5 million Christians. It is estimated that at least 25,000 Syrian Christians have fled to Lebanon. Syrian Muslims are also fleeing the violence, taxing the resources of surrounding nations. Thus far 110,000 Syrians have fled to Egypt, 168,000 to Iraq, 515,000 to Jordan, 716,000 to Lebanon and 460,000 to Turkey.
Many Christians are unaware of the severity of the persecution in our world today because most western media outlets have ignored it and failed to report it objectively. Be informed! God calls us to speak out on behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters.
As Christians we must guard our hearts from fear and anger. Stand in faith and pray for those being victimized. In addition, pray that their persecutors will have an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God – who loves them with an everlasting love. Pray that even in the midst of persecution, believers will be like Paul in Acts 16 and speak the word of the Lord to their oppressors. May those enduring the persecution be overwhelmed by God’s goodness, comfort and grace.