“If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” So Christ told his disciples, and so it has again come to pass.
Not since Stalin’s time have Christians been so savagely persecuted. But it is no longer communists who are the great persecutors, but Islamist mobs from Africa to the Balkans to Indonesia.
Last Sunday during evening services, terrorists detonated car bombs outside five Catholic churches in Mosul and Baghdad. A dozen worshipers perished. Scores of women and children were injured.
Now the Christians are fleeing. In Damascus, Rita Zekert, who heads the Caritas Migrant Center, says that where, a year ago, the refugees were Shi’ite, Sunni, Christian and Kurd in rough proportion to each’s share of the population, “nowadays, 95 percent of the people coming to us are Iraqi Christians.”
According to The New York Times, these refugees “tell of Christian shopkeepers killed by Islamist gangs for daring to sell alcohol, of family businesses sold to ransom stolen children. … They left Iraq, they say, only because they were too terrorized to stay.”
“All Sunday’s attacks were against Catholics rather than Eastern Orthodox churches, suggesting that Christians who owed their allegiance to Rome had become targets in the anti-Western campaign, Catholic clerics said,” says the Financial Times, adding, “Iraq’s 650,000-strong Christian community is depleting fast. Most of the 3 million Christians of Iraqi origin now live abroad, mainly in the U.S. and Western Europe. Tens of thousands have moved to Syria and Jordan, many crammed into tenement blocks, living on charity, banned from work and waiting for visas out of the Arab world.”
From Lebanon, scores of thousands of Catholics have fled in recent decades, leaving those behind as a shrinking minority in a Muslim land where they once flourished and, indeed, led.
Last May in Nigeria’s second city, Kano, Muslim youth went on a midnight rampage with cutlasses, clubs and machetes, massacring 600 Christians and leaving their bodies in the streets. Sixteen churches burned to the ground. The senior Muslim cleric in the city ordered all Christians out. Some 30,000 were driven from their homes.
In Kosovo in March, Albanian mobs, enraged over false rumors that Serbs were responsible for the drowning of three Muslim boys, looted and torched 17 monasteries, churches and convents. To protect these same Kosovar Albanians, the United States launched a 78-day bombing campaign on Belgrade and Serbia in 1999.
All the world is today focused on Darfur in the western Sudan. Forgotten are the millions of Christians in the southern Sudan who suffered torture, slavery, mutilations, rapes, starvation, massacres and exile at the hands of Sudanese soldiers after Khartoum declared Islamic law for the nation.
Between 1974, when Indonesia invaded East Timor, and 1999, when East Timor voted for independence, the United Nations has documented at least 120 massacres, with many involving hundreds of dead in this small Catholic country. After independence, Indonesian troops slaughtered over 1,000 East Timorese in rage over their decision to break free of Jakarta.
In Egypt, the 6 million Christian Copts have begun openly to protest persecution by Muslim fanatics and local authorities. If, as President Bush has assured us, “Islam is a religion of peace,” what is going on? Why the persecutions? Why the rampages and massacres to force peaceful Christians to flee their homes in Nigeria, Sudan, Kosovo, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia?
Answer: What is going on in the Islamic world is something akin to what happened in Europe from the Spanish Reconquista in 1492 through the Thirty Years War. As Isabella was determined to expel the Moors and de-Islamicize all of Spain, militant Muslims are today determined to expel all Christians and to de-Christianize the Islamic world.
They intend not only to drive Americans out of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Arab lands, but to drive the Christian minorities out — as aliens, traitors and collaborators of the West. Islamic terrorists are engaged in what has been called Fourth Generation warfare, warfare by non-state actors, warfare that will not be defeated with Tomahawk missiles and F-16s. And the militant Islamists conducting this form of warfare against Christian minorities in their midst are only confirmed in the justice of their jihad by America’s imperial presence in Iraq and our domination of the Middle East and Arab world.
The Western empires came and conquered the Islamic world in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They then departed or were driven out in wars of national liberation. But the Christian minorities who had lived peacefully there for 20 centuries, and who were left behind when the West went home, are now paying the price of our occupations and of militant Islam’s determination to purge and purify the Dar al Islam of all the hated residue of the Christian West.
Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail], former presidential candidate and White House aide, is editor of The American Conservative and the author of eight books, including A Republic Not An Empire and the upcoming Where the Right Went Wrong.