Islamic extremists have typically prioritized their victims according to the saying: “first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.” What they mean, of course, is that they are going after the Jews first. But the Christians are next on their hit list.
Yet precisely because of these priorities, there are almost no Jews left to target in Muslim countries. A series of attacks shortly after the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 persuaded 800,000 Jews to flee these lands for Israel. Their new home – the Jewish State of Israel — became the terrorists’ top target.
Yet for many militants, Christian minorities at home are more tempting victims than the Jewish state over the horizon. With increasing frequency and ferocity, these militants are turning against, and massacring, their Christian neighbors. Over the past few months alone there have been a series of deadly attacks, including:
- January 1, 2011, Egypt. A terrorist bombing killed 21 and wounded over 70 Coptic Christian worshippers as they left a New Year’s mass at Saints Church in Alexandria.
- December 25, 2010, Philippines. A bomb explosion during Christmas Day mass on the predominantly Muslim island of Jolo wounded a priest and 10 churchgoers.
- December 24, 2010, Nigeria. Christmas Eve assaults killed 32 and injured over 50 Christians in the mixed-faith cities of Jos and Maiduguri.
- October 31, 2010 Iraq. Eight terrorists stormed Our Lady of Salvation Church in Bagdad during mass, slaughtering 58 worshippers and two priests. Afterwards, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia issued a bulletin claiming that “All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets.”
As terrible as these recent attacks have been, they are hardly unique. As Eden Naby and Jamsheed Chosky wrote in Foreign Policy before the Christmas and New Years attacks, “the massacre in Baghdad is only the most spectacular example of mounting discrimination and persecution of the native Christian communities of Iraq and Iran, which are now in the middle of a massive exodus unprecedented in modern times as they confront a rising tide of Islamic militancy and religious chauvinism sweeping the region.”
Indeed, like the anti-Jewish outbursts over half a century earlier, these attacks on Christians are having the desired effect. Christians are fleeing the Middle East in record numbers. The oldest Christian communities on earth – some of which still speak the Aramaic spoken by Jesus — are rapidly disappearing. The following numbers indicate the extent of the exodus:
- Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 Christians in Baghdad have fled or been killed.
- In Mosul, Iraq, the Christian population has dwindled from approximately 100,000 to a mere 5,000.
- The number of Assyrian Christians in Iran has fallen from 100,000 to approximately 15,000.
It should come as no surprise that some of those cheering these attacks have been quick to lie about them. Some are even blaming their favorite victim: Israel. A day after the New Year’s attack in Egypt, Iran’s official television outlet, Press TV, announced that Israel’s Mossad spy agency was behind the bombing, and warned of a “fresh plot by terrorists to target churches is an organized Zionist scenario aimed at creating a rift between Muslims and Christians.” Essam El-Irian, a senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, has likewise blamed this massacre on the Mossad.
Yet what is far more surprising – and disappointing – is that too many of those who should know better are also blaming Israel for the plight of Christians in Muslim lands. When the Pope summoned regional bishops to the Vatican last October to discuss the threat to Christians in the Middle East, they produced a working document which singled out “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories” as a central reason why Palestinian Christians are fleeing. Patriarch Gregory III of Damascus, Syria, went even further, saying that Christian emigration from the Arab world in general is “among the most dangerous effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
When your co-religionists are being slaughtered in cold blood, such political correctness is a dangerous flight from reality. The fact is that Israeli security measures — such as its fence separating the West Bank from Israel — are a necessary and belated response to the very same Islamic terror that is causing Christians to flee the region. To blame Israel for the plight of Christians in the West Bank – not to mention beyond – is tantamount to blaming our government for enhanced airport security screening. It is a confusion of cause and effect. It is a failure to see clearly the true source of our troubles.
Not only is it wrong to blame Israel for this problem, but the exact opposite is true. The recent anti-Christian attacks prove a point that we in CUFI have stressed from the very start. The United States and Israel, Christians and Jews, are facing the same enemies. The only real linkage that exists in the Middle East is the linkage between the fates of our two nations and our two faiths. When Israel confronts Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, it is fighting our enemies. When Israel battles Islamic terror, it is engaging an enemy that will turn its fire on Christians the minute they run out of Jews to kill. In too many cases, they already are.
When we stand with Israel, we stand with all persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. And we shall continue to do so.
David Brog is the executive director of Christians United for Israel and author of a new book, In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity. You can follow David on Facebook by clicking here and on Twitter by clicking here.