In December, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a Genocide Warning for endangered religious minorities in the Islamic Middle East.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA, agrees that persecution is high for one religious minority: Christians. He explains: ‘When you look at elections in Egypt where some 60% odd of the vote went to the Islamic parties, including, in one case, the Islamic party that has been attacking churches and 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 work 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.
The greatest concern is what the future might hold with an Islamist government in charge. Nettleton says Christians worry that, if they have no way of getting representation at the ballot box because they are such a small minority, ‘What does this mean for us? What will our government do to protect us?’
Given the pattern in Iraq, could the Middle East be experiencing another exodus? Nettleton says: ‘Because these issues are across the region, you can’t necessarily go next door to find better treatment, protection and freedom. For many Christians, they feel like they have to get completely out of the Middle East region to have their religious freedom protected and honoured’.
However, Nettleton added 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.
Mission Network News
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on http://www.mnnonline.org and is used with permission.