“Arab Spring” Means “Christian Winter” for Millions of Persecuted Christians
Millions of Christians around the world are enduring what has been dubbed a “Christian Winter” in the midst of the “Arab Spring,” a movement of political unrest that has given way to Muslim domination — and rising hostility against Christians — in numerous Middle Eastern and African nations.
Secular regimes that once ruled many of those nations are being replaced with Islamic states that have instituted a form of sharia law, or Muslim legislation, which is enforced on all citizens regardless of their religious affiliation. For thousands of minority Christians, it is a worrisome trend that has resulted in increased discrimination, imprisonment, physical violence, or even death.
The Arab Spring began in Tunisia in December 2010, where a wave of public protests finally ousted former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and paved the way for a potentially prosperous democracy. In the months since the transition, however, reports have indicated an increasing public imposition of Islam in the country, including forced prayer, the veiling of women, and growing condemnation of individuals who are regarded as apostates. Threats to the freedom — or even the existence — of the Christian church in Tunisia were compounded in September 2011 when a Muslim group attempted to take over a church, claiming that it had been a Muslim place of worship before being converted to a basilica in 1966.
The anti-Christian trend has spread throughout countries like Pakistan, where a Christian wife and mother has sat on death row since November 2010 for allegedly insulting the prophet Mohammed to her co-workers; Iran, where an imprisoned pastor — a former Muslim who converted to Christianity in his youth — was sentenced to death on the charge of apostasy; and Egypt, where numerous attempts to silence the peaceful protests of thousands of Coptic Christians have included intimidation, church burnings, and brutal violence.
“The Arab Spring is truly a Christian winter for these persecuted people,” says Robert Sweet, Jr., vice president of Christian Freedom International (CFI), a Michigan-based humanitarian organization that assists persecuted Christians around the world. According to Sweet, there is also a concerning lack of action on the part of Western Christians to assist and speak out for their Middle Eastern counterparts who are suffering under such intensifying persecution.
CFI, whose humanitarian work has included construction of schools, medical facilities, and orphanages in countries like Burma, Thailand, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, has launched a special online series intended to highlight persecution in countries where the Arab Spring has affected minority Christians. To learn more, go here.