As the New Year approaches, it is heartbreaking to see what is happening to Christians in Muslim-majority countries around the world. The barbarism of ISIS is almost impossible to imagine. But the persecution is hardly limited to that satanic death cult. It is a defining feature throughout much of the Middle East and beyond. Sadly, too many of our political and cultural elites are in denial.
In recent days there have been disturbing reports that ISIS has published a list of churches in America and is urging its followers to “turn the Christian New Year into a bloody horror movie.”
That bloody movie premiered in December, when a terrorist bomb was detonated at St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo, Egypt, which are adjacent to the Coptic Papal Seat of St. Mark’s Cathedral. The bomb blast left at least 25 people dead and 65 injured, most of them women and children.
This was not an isolated event. Recently, persecution watchdog group Aid to the Church in Need released its 2016 “Religious Freedom in the World” report. The report revealed that 38 of 196 countries examined showed “unmistakable evidence” of significant religious freedom violations. Twenty-three of those countries were placed in the top-level “Persecution” category, while 15 others in the “Discrimination” group.
Six of the seven nations in which persecution was labeled so extreme that “it could scarcely get any worse” have majority (or in Nigeria’s case, plurality) Muslim populations: Afghanistan, Iraq (northern), Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Syria.
“A virulent and extremist form of Islam emerged as the number one threat to religious freedom,” the report noted, “and was revealed as the primary cause of persecution in many of the worst cases.”
Another recent report finds that 12 of the 17 worst violators of religious freedom are Islamic nations.
Responding to the recent terror attacks in Ankara and Berlin, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, “The civilized world must change thinking!” Trump may be asking too much of Western elites. Many political and media elites deny that religion has anything to do with the violence, or they engage in a grotesque false equivalence.
After the Berlin attack, in which the Jihadist used a truck to mow down dozens of innocent people at a Christmas market, “Moring Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough mocked Trump’s common sense suggestion. “Um, yeah. . . First of all, I don’t know exactly what the civilized world is going to do about trucks, unless we’re going to ban trucks,” Scarborough said. “But again, some of the deadliest attacks have been with vehicles.”
Sweden has more citizens traveling to the Middle East to engage in terrorism than any other European country. But some of its elites seem ignorant about the true cause of jihadiism. After she was named to a new post to fight violent extremism in that country, Anna Carlstedt told Swedish radio, “I think there are several different types of hotbeds of extremism. What we see is that there is an interaction between them. It is true that Islamic extremism is growing, but this also results from the extreme right-wing white power movement.”
In the US, Barack Obama has spent his entire presidency trying to reassure Americans that Islamic jihadism has nothing to do with religion.
Meanwhile the Justice Department is suing every local community for discrimination any time a permit for a mosque is denied. Yet the Obama administration is silent about the fact that very few churches are being built in Muslim-majority nations.
Journalist Graeme Wood recently spoke with NPR about his new book on the Islamic State. Here are some excerpts of his remarks:
“I think that there is a strong urge to say that [Islamic terrorism] has nothing to do with religion, that ISIS is a bunch of psychopaths. . . Unfortunately that’s just not true. ISIS has looked into Islamic history with historical accuracy, with intellectual rigor. . .
“You’ll find some who will say the violence is temporary. ‘We are Muslims who are reviving the faith and we have to do this in a fallen world. . .’ That’s what you find with the nicer ones.
“The less nice ones just say, ‘This is a wonderful thing. The violence is not something that needs to be explained except to say that our scripture says it must be so. And so when it happens, we should celebrate it.'”
Western elites can deny it all they want, but when the jihadists yell, “Allahu akbar!” it has everything to do with religion. When ISIS instructs its followers to attack churches, it has everything to with religion.
2016 was a bloody year worldwide, and particularly for Christians who live among Muslims. This year has made it clear that major parts of Islam are at war with Christendom, as has been the case for centuries. There is tremendous hate in the hearts of Islamic supremacists. It is not discriminatory or hateful to acknowledge these facts. In fact, unless we do, 2017 will hold a similar fate for millions of Christians.
Former Presidential candidate Gary Bauer is chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, president of American Values, and co-host of the Bauer and Rose show on SiriusXM Patriot.