by Dr. D ~ November 1st, 2013
( Ottoman Empire in 1914: Wikipedia)
In our previous article ( “An International ‘War’ on Christians?” ) we raised the specter of a world-wide persecution of Christians that has resulted in the deaths of around 100,000 a year over the last decade.
We are not talking about Christians being killed for personal reasons or by accident. After all hundreds of Christians probably die in automobile accidents every year in the USA and some people who happen to be Christians are murdered or may be killed as the result of robbery and crime. What we are talking about is men, women, and children being persecuted and killed primarily because of their Christian faith.
In this article and the following we hope to provide several reasons and contexts for understanding that all of these events where Christians are being killed are not just isolated cases nor some kind of secret conspiracy but part of a number of world moving and shaking trends. We are looking at huge changes in the 21st century and sweeps of history bringing on events that are difficult to interpret or understand from the perspective of a Western secular world view.
First Context: The Rise of Radical Islam
One of the major factors contributing to the increase in the persecution of Christians is the rise of radical Islam. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI the last Caliphate was dissolved and the Muslim lands in North East Africa and the Middle East were divided up with new countries and borders defined by the winners- England, France, Russia, and the USA. It was the beginning of Western dominance over the Muslim Middle East.
Radical Sunni Islam
Radical Muslim groups rose up in the 20th century to combat the power and influence of the West on Muslim culture and rule. First came the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 which had a membership of over 2 million by the end of WWII. Their stated purpose was to re-establish the Quran and sharia law as the basis for Muslim culture, law, and rule. It began as a reaction to British rule over Egypt and Sudan but spread and expanded all across the whole Middle East and North Africa as a reaction to the inroads that Western culture had made in Muslim lands.
The Saudi Arabian Kingdom took a different tact as the protectors of the Muslim holy cities by maintaining sharia law for their citizens, totally controlling the media in their nation, and by containing Western workers and visitors in special conclaves to lessen the foreign influence on their nation. The Saudi’s were fortunate enough to be on the ‘winning’ side during the two world wars plus the ‘Cold War’ and continued to control vast oil fields that were needed by the West. So they were primarily left alone to rule their nation as they saw fit and have even received military protection from the West when needed.
While many of the rich Saudi princes jetted all around the world enjoying everything that money could buy in the West, they supported the radical ultra-conservative Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam within their own country and paid for and built Wahhabi madrassas all around the world. Schools that educated and trained an entire generation of radical Muslims particularly in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan. One simply cannot discount the role of Saudi supported Wahhabi madrassas in the rise of radical Islam in the world today.
Saudi Arabia has long been considered allies of the West and the particularly the USA but in reality it is a ultra-conservative Muslim country that has been the breeding ground for radical groups like al Qaeda and continues to be one of the worst countries when it comes to freedom of religion and the treatment of religious minorities. There are no churches allowed in that nation nor worship centers for any other religion other than Islam. Christian prayers and worship are illegal even in private homes except within foreign conclaves. Violators can expect lashes and prison if discovered.
In final analysis, while Saudi Arabia makes a show of supporting the West internationally and economically, it has actually funded the rise of radical Sunni Islam around the world by building Wahhabi mosques and schools in over a hundred countries (including the USA) and has provided funding to radical Sunni groups like PLO- Fatah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is the Sunni radical groups that are currently persecuting and killing Christians in Egypt, Syria, and the most radical of all- the Boko Haram in Nigeria. The Muslims and Christians had lived together peacefully for over a thousand years in Egypt and Syria. Why are Christians all of a sudden being persecuted and killed in those nations- that is what this series is all about. A lot of it has to do with a new eschatological emphasis in Islam and a surprising on-going hidden ‘revival’ among Christians in Muslim lands. All of which we will cover in subsequent articles in this series.
I originally thought I could get it all done in a couple of posts but now realize that there is far too much historical background that must be covered in order to explain the current historical and religious contexts that make sense of it all. Meanwhile in Part III of our series we will take a look at the rise of radical Shia Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran along with their defining eschatological vision of the future. *Top