News / Middle East

    Concern Over Attacks on Middle East Christians Grows in Washington

    Concern Over Attacks on Middle East Christians Grows in Washingtoni
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    Jerome Socolovsky
    April 17, 2014 7:59 PM
    Human rights groups say attacks against Christians in the Middle East have multiplied in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and are triggering an exodus from the region. And Christian activists in the U.S. say President Barack Obama is not doing enough to prevent it. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
    Last August, the bloody crackdown on a Muslim Brotherhood protest camp in Cairo by Egyptian security forces drew international condemnation.

    But less attention was paid to the scores of Coptic churches set ablaze and destroyed in the days that followed.

    Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom says it was “the worst pogrom on Christians in Egypt for about 700 years.”

    Across the Middle East, Christian minorities have been targeted in conflicts that ensued from what were supposed to be transitions to democracy.

    Some Western leaders, including Pope Francis and Prince Charles, have expressed concern about the threat to Christians in the region that gave birth to the faith. And yet, in the United States, it has drawn relatively little attention outside of a few Christian groups and lawmakers.

    Republican Congressman Christopher Smith has chaired several hearings on the matter recently.

    “We are witnessing grievous violence and other forms of intimidation directed against religious and political minorities, particularly the Copts and other Christians about which our government and the media have said far too little,” he told a House of Representatives subcommittee at one of the hearings.

    But activists concede it’s hard to press the issue because in the West, Christians are not widely seen as a vulnerable minority. Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya Television says the issue has little traction on both sides of the American political divide.

    “The plight of the Christians may be lost on the left because they [the victims] are too Christian, and lost on the rightist groups, the conservative groups here, because they are foreign,” he says.

    Melhem, a Maronite Christian from Lebanon, spoke at a recent discussion at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, titled “The Impact of Middle East Transitions on Christian Communities.”

    He expressed frustration that “no one in America” accepts any responsibility for the Christian flight from Iraq, where the population is one-third the pre-U.S. invasion figure.

    “After all, a large number of Iraqi Christians were forced to leave Iraq, when we as Americans had 150,000 men and women in Iraq,” he says.

    There are fears of a similar decline in Syria, where the kidnapping of a group of Greek Orthodox nuns raised fears in the minority Christian community that they were being targeted by extremists among the anti-government fighters. They were released in March.

    At the National Prayer Breakfast in February, President Barack Obama devoted his speech to religious freedom abroad.

    “No society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all its peoples, including religious minorities, whether they’re Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, or Baha’i in Iran, or Coptic Christians in Egypt,” he said.

    “We were really encouraged because at the prayer breakfast, he came out with a very strong statement,” said Jeff King of International Christian Concern, which runs the website persecution.org.

    “But you look at the followup to that and there hasn’t been any,” he adds, noting that the president did not even bring up discrimination against Christians in his recent meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, where churches are banned.

    King says President Obama “is very vocal on the subject of the persecution of the gay community” in other countries, even though he says Christians have been more frequent targets of killings.
    Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypti
    X
    Jerome Socolovsky
    April 17, 2014 8:10 PM
    Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.

    At St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in suburban Washington, many churchgoers were alarmed at the latest report from Egypt of a young Coptic woman who was murdered by a Cairo mob who saw a crucifix hanging in her car windshield.

    Reports of Coptic women being kidnapped and raped worry Sandy Salamon, who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of eight. She says they are meant to humiliate the Copts as a people.

    “It’s a weapon that - when that piece of your humanity is attacked, it’s very hard to …  fight back,” she said, adding that the humiliation is part of daily life.  

    She recalls visiting Cairo just after the revolution, being out on the street with her mother and aunt.

    “I’m not veiled. So, I’m walking down, clearly a Christian,” she said. “The looks, the language, even the body language is very threatening.”

    Copts are the largest Christian minority in the region, and they say their church predates the arrival of Islam in the 7th century. According to Coptic tradition, it was established in the first century by Mark the Evangelist - a disciple of Jesus.

    American-born priest Paul Girguis says that since the beginning, Copts have known martyrdom and suffering.

    “There was an emperor that said, ‘I’m going to massacre the Christians until the blood in the streets reaches to the knees of my horse.’”

    Still he says Copts are “a very resilient people,” and if they survived 20 centuries, they will overcome the hardships of the 21st.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.