"Many Westerners remain scandalously uninformed of what’s happening. The Western media often couch anti-Christian violence as sectarian strife between Christians and Muslims.
The Obama administration has neglected Christian persecution, choosing instead to pursue a “partnership” and “broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect” with what the president and much of the media often refer to as the “Muslim world.”
But that term – “Muslim world” – is a misnomer. It serves only to reinforce the idea that Christians do not belong in the Middle East. As we know from the Bible, however, Christianity was born in the Middle East and predates Islam there by 700 years.
Christians flourished in the Middle East as recently as a century ago, when they made up close to 20 percent of the population. Today, they comprise less than five percent of the region – a share that’s seemingly ever decreasing.
Half of the Christians in Iraq (where Noah built his ark, Daniel entered the lion’s den and the wise men set out on their journey to pay homage to a newborn King) have fled over the last decade.
In Jordan (where Christ was baptized), Christians have dropped from 30 percent of the population in the 1950s to less than two percent today. Christian representation in Lebanon (mentioned 71 times in the Old Testament) has plummeted from 60 percent to 25 percent over a generation. Though some have left for economic reasons, most departing Christians have fled because they fear for their lives.
Some world leaders have assessed the situation with chilling candor. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy has labeled Middle East Christians victims of “religious cleansing.” In 2009, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Baghdad said, “I fear the extinction of Christianity in Iraq and the Middle East.” Pope Benedict XVI has said that the region’s Christians are experiencing an “authentic martyrdom. "
In another decade or so, given present trends, there will be few if any Christians living in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. The same is true of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, and even of Jerusalem, where nearly 600 historic churches still stand.
Christians in the Palestinian territories have dropped from 15 percent of the Arab population in 1950 to just 2 percent today. Both Bethlehem and Nazareth, which had been overwhelmingly Christian towns, now have strong Muslim majorities. Today three-fourths of all Bethlehem Christians live abroad, and more Jerusalem Christians live in Sydney, Australia than in the place of their birth. Indeed, Christians now comprise just 2.5 percent of Jerusalem, although those remaining still include a few born in the Old City when Christians there still constituted a majority.
And it is not only the Holy Land from which many native Christians have fled. Throughout the entire Middle East, once significant Christian communities have shrunk to a miniscule portion of their former robust selves. In 50 years they may well be extinct.
What happened? Why has there been a great – and little reported -- Christian exodus from the Middle East, with some 2 million fleeing in the past 20 years alone? Why have perhaps fully half of all Iraqi Christians clandestinely emigrated in the last 10 years? Why have hundreds of thousands of Egyptian Copts left their homeland, with the famous Antioch community collapsing from 15,000 Christians a couple of decades ago to a mere handful today?
The single greatest cause of this emigration is pressure from radical Islam.