The rise of Islamic State has led to a renewed focus on the persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria. But as Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan says, “The whole Middle East, without exception, is presently engulfed by a nightmare that seems to have no end and that undermines the very existence of minorities, particularly of Christians, in lands known to be the cradle of our faith and early Christian communities.”
And the problem is not just in the Middle East. In 2013, Christians were harassed either by the government or social groups in 102 of 198 countries, the highest tally for any religious group:
An earlier study by other researchers reported a 309 percent jump in attacks on Christians in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
Cruelties such as what Soliman endured are commonplace; so are deaths, which conservative estimates put at thousands per year. One Protestant scholar, Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity, believes the toll is far greater – at least 100,000 per year over the last decade.
A diverse set of motives drives the persecution. In much of the Middle East and parts of Africa, it’s Islamic radicalism; in India, it’s Hindu fundamentalism; in China and North Korea, it’s police states protecting their hegemony, and in Latin America, it’s often vested interests threatened by Christians standing up for peace and justice.