Think Again: 10 Myths about Egypt’s Second Revolution

Introduction by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by AG Griffin, ACN Canada

Copyright Status: Copyright: free with credit to Photographer Copyright notice: © Council of the EU Credit: No commercial use."The Council of the European Union"

Copyright Status:
Copyright: free with credit to Photographer
Copyright notice:
© Council of the EU
Credit:
No commercial use.”The Council of the European Union”

The following is a reference document following  Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan’s visit to the EU institutions in Brussels, a visit supported and organized by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) (September 17- 19, 2013).

ACN recently received this document from Bishop Kyrillos which he prepared in response to the more common questions posed around the nature of the situation in Egypt, and what could reasonably be expected from the situation.

The following answers he offered to the EU policy-makers  over a month ago, and they have not lost their pertinence.  The bishop referred to these questions as “myths” because he noticed the power and presence they hold in the imaginations of the people he met.  The bishop is now looking forward to dispelling these ‘myths’ and says:  “We must give the Egyptian constitution and the Egyptian people the chance they have been fighting for.”


Msgr Kyrillos William

مطران الكاثوليك الأقباط                                                                                                                    Bishop Coptic Catholic

A reference document following our visit to the EU institutions in Brussels  

1. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) represents the majority of Egyptians. In Europe we have Christian Democrats – are not the Muslim Brotherhood ‘Muslim Democrats’?

No. The MB, in its political party form, obtained only 12 out of a possible 50 million votes in the elections of 2011. Their rate of support fell sharply to as little as 5% when the Morsi government eliminated a pluralist Parliament and replaced it with one in which they were the absolute majority, was stopped short from replacing 3500 judges by people they knew would uphold Sharia law over the existing more secular laws, and declared illegal the work of foreign-funded pro-democracy and human rights NGOs. The MB, however, has an important detachment of press officers abroad still propagating a message of massive support with little or no bearing on reality in Egypt.

The above short list of exactions bears no comparison to any form of Christian Democracy as known in the West.

2. There are massive, peaceful pro-Morsi demonstrations still taking place and being suppressed.

They are an illusion fuelled by the lack of presence of foreign correspondents outside Cairo. A few hundred supporters still gather intermittently but they have worked with broadcast media owned by well-known Sunni Sheiks, even using images of the anti-Morsi demonstrations labeling them as pro-Morsi.

The demonstrations are not peaceful. Extremists have attacked police stations with rocket-propelled grenades (Kerdasa, Aswan, Menya) killing many policemen. Many MB members are on camera threatening Christians of genocide and raising Al-Qaeda flags in the sit-in areas. Dr. Morsi himself is recorded on video calling the Shia “filth worth only of extermination”. Protestors have also paid families to resist the calls of the police to clear the area or face being expelled.

3. There was a coup and there is now a military government.

It was not a coup, but the military supporting the will of 33+ million Egyptians demonstrating in the streets under the slogan “Food, Freedom, Social Justice and Human Dignity”.

The MB international spokespeople have insisted on isolating two events as if they were disconnected: the elections that brought Morsi to power and his removal from office. There is little mention of what happened in between: the dissolution of the nascent democratic structures such as the pluralist Parliament in favor of the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly and the single-handed appointment of 13 MB regional leaders (out of 27).

The interim government is not military. It is a civilian government and the army has no intention of taking up power. In February 2011, when Mubarak listened to the people and stood down, he surrendered the government to a military council who proceeded to organize elections and a civilian government was installed. The lesson learnt then is replicated now and the interim government is promising to have a new full government in 9 months, shorter again than the previous transfer of 15 months following Mubarak.  

4. The Tamarod was organized by the military and pressured citizens to sign the petition.

No. Tamarod is a youth movement, which started in May 2013 and the timeline of events demonstrates that the collection of the 22 million signatures (with full identification) started well before the army decided to ask Morsi to listen to the people. The Tamarod set a 30 June deadline for Dr. Morsi to respond to the demands, which included calling for early presidential elections.

5. Egypt had bad elections and a bad Constitution. There is no sign this time that things will be better.

Yes and No. Yes, the elections could have been better; Morsi came to power with 12 million votes in an election with approximately 43% turnout of the 50 million registered voters. Moreover, the multiple claims of fraud taking place outside Cairo had no electoral tribunal for recourse (pre-filled ballots, repeated voter names, etc.). Elections can only be improved with a truly independent electoral body and tribunal. In addition, a controversial move of the MB was to first hold the presidential elections and only afterward address the Constitution. This effectively prevented the majority of Egyptians, not members of the winning political party, to participate in the Constitutional process.

Lessons have been learnt. The new Constitution is now being drafted before elections, the Committee has a clear deadline in November, and it includes 50 Egyptians from all backgrounds, including Salafists and one former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, committed to “the creation of a constitutional Nation State, democratic and modern, founded upon a text approved by the nation supporting the separation of powers. Its current Article 3 defines “citizenship as the sole criterion of responsibility within society” (Source: interview of Mahmoud Azab, counselor for Dialogue to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University,  La Croix 16sept2013).

6. There are waves of arrests against the MB; news media are being harassed.

Most MB members are free to live and participate fully in civil society. Judiciary mandates have been issued against individuals who have incited hatred and violence: committing murder (such as those caught on camera throwing youngsters off a roof in Alexandria), as well as perpetrating acts of violence against Egyptians, victimizing not only Christians but also the majority of Muslims. At the same time, the sources of funding used to buy weapons and explosives are also being investigated – and many lead to the MB. This is the origin of the order to banish the MB’s activities, as the investigation continues. The MB is constituted of several operating arms: political party, NGO, social services providers, etc. making the investigation difficult.

As to the alleged media harassment, the broadcasting and social media units that were closed (seen abroad as news media), are rarely more than the medium of expression of well-known foreign Sheiks financing their own objectives. Al-Jazeera is Qatar-funded, largely like the MB, and in Egypt Al-Jazeera has never pretended to be impartial. Most of these broadcasters have little to do with what the West considers as free and responsible media, necessary to a democratic society. (These are facts and are proved with relative ease). Meanwhile, language barriers also play an important part in the misunderstanding abroad of what goes on in Egypt. Multiplying information sources is still the only way to overcome this challenge.

7. Egyptian society is divided, the process of reconciliation is necessary.

No. There is a small minority of Egyptians, approximately 5%, who might be open supporters of the MB. The other 95% want a modern democratic state with a rule of law based on citizenship not on religious background, gender, age or other potentially discriminating measurements. The MB has declared that the only option for consideration is the reinstatement of Dr. Morsi to power. Contrary to the situation in Libya or Syria, the fabric of Egyptian society remains unified; the present desire is to integrate all parties in a peaceful and inclusive manner without a tyranny of the minority.

8. If it were true the people only wanted change, there was no need for a military coup. We do not do that in the West.

With a simple review on the sequence of events it is evident that it was not a coup but an answer to the voice of 33+ million Egyptians who, disillusioned with the Muslim Brotherhood, again sought democratic change by going to the streets.

Since their narrow win in May 2012, the Morsi regime and the Muslim Brotherhood made a rapid power-grab, eliminating the possibility of participation in political life to Egyptians from other political affiliations. The Islamist-dominated Constitutional Assembly quickly issued new laws voiding existing rules protecting the rights of children and women (pushing to make the legal age for marriage as low as 9 years) and freedom of expression and education (going as far as arresting comedians and teachers expressing opinions contrary to the Sharia). With neither political means nor free media to address their government, Egyptians took to the streets demanding Dr. Morsi to meet with them and discuss the changes they thought urgent. Morsi never opened the door, with the consequences we now know.

Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, informed the European Parliament that she had met with Dr. Morsi before the demonstrations and made it known to him that she “…could feel the antipathy to the Brotherhood and could see the growing numbers of people on the streets…” (Source: EU’s Ashton ready to return to Egypt to ‘support’ not ‘interfere’, Ahram Online, 12sept13) and urged him on behalf of the EU to accept dialogue with the population, but he refused to negotiate.

9. Egypt has no tradition of democracy; this will happen again soon.

Egypt may not as yet have a “tradition of democracy” as we understand in the West, but the interim government and the civil society are giving themselves the means to establish its foundations. As reflected by the popular will and the progress of the interim government, Egypt seeks to be a modern, democratic society based on citizenship as the sole source of rights and responsibilities. Transitions are the same the world over, where the economic situation is oppressive and people are tired, unemployed and hungry. The roadmap of 9 months must succeed, and for this Egypt needs every help it can get, particularly to offer its citizens a ray of hope in both material and educational terms. If the West wants to help us, support the interim government in its hopes to establish a new secular Constitution and to implement the roadmap to Parliamentary and Presidential elections. The greatest challenge to this process, especially with the onset of winter, is a revolution deriving from greater economic hardship and hunger. Where possible, help also in civic education programs led by the civil society organizations such as a one meal per day program for school-going children.

10. But Muslims and Christians will continue their sectarian strife.

No. There is no sectarian strife in Egypt. In some communities Christians have suffered more attacks than in others because they are peaceful and a relatively easy target. The tensions grew out of the beginning of the Morsi regime, but the 14 August violence against Christians, police, firemen, museums, schools, hospitals, etc. in fact created a greater solidarity from the side of the moderate Muslims toward the Christians. Many Muslims in Upper Egypt are now protecting the Christian buildings assuring them of their protection from extremists. The exemplary relationship between Al Azhar – the institution representing the highest Sunni authority in the Islamic world, known also for its university and library – and the Coptic Churches has been described as “the two wings carrying Egypt towards its future” (Source: interview of Mahmoud Azab, counselor for Dialogue to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University,  La Croix 16sept2013).

Copyright Status: Copyright: free with credit to Photographer Copyright notice: © Council of the EU Credit: No commercial use."The Council of the European Union"

Copyright Status:
Copyright: free with credit to Photographer
Copyright notice:
© Council of the EU
Credit:
No commercial use.”The Council of the European Union”

Additional Background

Summer is never a good moment for big news, but it was the moment Egyptian society decided they had enough of the Morsi regime and took to the streets by the millions. Egyptians of all backgrounds had seen the democratic illusion dissolve and their rights wither as soon as the results of the elections were confirmed. Morsi had been elected to office by 12 million people, out of 50 million registered voters, which gave him a clear majority over the other candidates. Egyptians celebrated the advent of the first ever elected government.

Over one year, however, the methodical elimination of normal – albeit incipient – avenues of popular expression such as Parliamentary and Judiciary review, as well as NGO action left citizens without a voice unless they showed their number in the open. A youth movement called Tamarod (Rebellion) collected 22 million signatures from identified signatories in early June 2013 asking the Morsi regime for crucial changes in his administration. As they were ignored, Tamarod called for demonstrations in Cairo and other cities on 30 June, to which an estimated 33 million Egyptians responded. After two days of massive and peaceful demonstrations, the military gave notice to the President of the need to respond within an established deadline. Mr Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party refused, leading to his arrest and the immediate establishment of an interim, civilian government.

On 3 July 2013 a Roadmap to the next elections was set. Within the next 9 months, a new Constitution would be drafted by a new Constitutional Committee as inclusive as possible, where also the Muslim Brotherhood as such (not as political party) were invited. The MB rejected both the Roadmap and the invitation, calling as a condition the return of Mr Morsi to the Presidency.

The new Constitution would pave the way for the election of the new Parliament and then of a new President. Meanwhile, some supporters of the deposed government took to the streets as well, and organized sit-ins in squares.

The sit-ins were tolerated for several weeks until the security forces informed them that there would soon be a clearing of the area, inviting them to leave, using loudspeakers and walking through the crowds. Many did, but others defied the orders. On 14 August in the morning, the security forces entered the squares, and they were met with sniper fire from the nearby buildings, which unleashed a violent confrontation leaving and estimated 638 dead, 43 of them policemen.

Simultaneously, however, in several cities in Egypt, far from the eyes of the diplomatic and foreign media corps, a coordinated armed attack on government, cultural and Christian buildings was deployed. Museums were ransacked; police and fire stations were set ablaze, as well as churches, hospitals and schools. Muslim populations moved to protect the Christians forming human chains around their houses and churches, thus in fact unifying the moderate Muslim majority and the Christian community in their desire for a stable society worthy of the sacrifices made for democratic change.

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PRESS RELEASE: Egypt – “It isn’t a religious conflict”

 Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Montreal, October 28, 2013 – After an attack on Christians in Cairo Father Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos, secretary to the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, rejected the view that Egypt was experiencing a religious conflict. “The idea that this involves a conflict between Muslims and Christians simply isn’t borne out by the reality. It’s not only Christians who are being attacked, but also state institutions,” the cleric stressed to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. On Sunday, 20 October, unknown persons had fired at Coptic wedding guests and killed four people.

ACN-20131016-01802In Father Hani’s own words: “The attackers want to provoke us Christians into calling for western intervention, for instance from the USA or European countries. This would internationalize the conflict and disrupt national unity. On the other hand, their goal is to embroil the Christians in a civil war. But this tactic won’t work. We Christians have shown that we are genuine Egyptians.” The root of the problem, he continued, was that fundamentalists had no intention of respecting the wish of the majority of Egyptians for a civil and democratic state.

Three stages for overcoming the crisis

After the latest attack the Muslim Brotherhood had expressed their sympathy. Father Hani couldn’t judge whether this was honestly meant, “but I can say that during the rule of the Muslim Brothers many terrorists entered the country. We are now suffering from the consequences of their government.”

He went on to say that Sinai was full of terrorists. They were now active throughout the country. When asked whether the security forces were doing enough to protect the Christians, Father Hani said: “Police are stationed in front of many churches. But the terrorists mostly strike completely unexpectedly. This is a terrorist problem that affects all Egyptians equally, not only the Christians. Egypt is conducting a war on terrorism.”

According to Father Hani, Egypt can only overcome the present crisis following the deposition of President Morsi in three stages: “Firstly we need a new constitution and elections for the presidency and parliament. Secondly, the terrorist elements destabilising the country must be eliminated, and criminals must be punished. And thirdly there must be a genuine conciliation between all groups in Egypt. For this purpose the Muslim Brothers must put the interests of Egypt before their own. Only in this way will we be able to achieve a genuinely democratic and civil state.

Journey with ACN – Haiti

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.  This weekly newsletter will an opportunity for us to acquaint you with the needs of the Church and the projects we have realized together in countries around the world.

This week: Haiti

 

A jeep, some breviaries and some bookshelves for the national seminary in Port-au-Prince

By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada 

On 12 January 2010, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, which claimed the lives of at least a quarter of a million people and laid waste to entire cities. Also devastated by this catastrophe was the National Seminary in the capital, Port-au-Prince – the only seminary in the country.

Six theology students, eight philosophy students and one professor lost their lives, while many of the buildings were completely flattened, including the chapel, the refectory and the library. But 243 of the seminarians managed to survive the earthquake. “When I think that the entire community could well have been in the chapel at the time of the earthquake, it sends shivers down my spine,” the apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Erzbischof Bernardito Auza remarked at the time to the Fides news service. “That would really have been a terrible loss.” And he added, “Those who were buried under the rubble were for the most part able to free themselves. The rector was in his office on the ground floor of one of the buildings at the time. His office no longer exists, but the rector himself was unhurt and cannot himself remember how or in what way he managed to get out. He says that Our Lady must have led him.”

Despite everything, the seminary was able to resume its activities just a few weeks after the catastrophe, though in tents this time. ACN has helped a number of times in support of the seminary, following this terrible catastrophe, so that the nearly 250 young men still training there for the priesthood are able to continue pursuing their vocation.

HAITI 2Most recently the rector asked us for help to purchase a jeep, some breviaries and some solid bookshelves for the philosophy department. The vehicle was needed for transporting provisions for the seminary and for taking sick seminarians to the doctor, since there is no public transport. The bookcases are needed so that the library can be re-established, and the breviaries are vital for the spiritual life of the seminarians.

ACN has provided $8,400 for some solid metal bookshelves, $4,200  for the cost of the breviaries and $41,300 for the purchase of a jeep.

The rector and all the seminarians want to say thank you to all our generous benefactors, not only for your donations but also for your prayers, and know that they in turn are praying for you!

 

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

 

Press Release : A hindered return of child soldiers to Uganda

© ACN

By Eva-Maria Kollman, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

The situation in Central African Republic hinders the return of Ugandan child soldiers

Montreal, October 22, 2013 – Following the coup in the Central African Republic, it has become more difficult for Ugandan child soldiers abducted to that country to return to their homes. Msgr Cosmas Alule, rector of the national seminary of Alokolum (Northern Uganda), spoke of this deplorable situation to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

In the past, child soldiers who were abducted by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during the civil war in Uganda and taken to the Central African Republic and held there were able to flee to the Ugandan soldiers who were stationed there, Msgr. Alule explained. But now the new government of the Central African Republic, which emerged from the Séléka rebel alliance and came to power through a coup on 24 March of this year, has “much sympathy for the leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony,” and has expelled the Ugandan troops, he said. The situation in Uganda itself has improved and “the people there no longer live in fear,” but the LRA is still “very active” in the Central African Republic and Sudan, and causes problems there, according to Alule. The seminary of which he is rector is situated in a region of the country that was badly affected by the civil war between 1988 and 2008.

20100715_021

On May 11, 2003, the minor seminary in the Diocese of Gulu, where the seminary of Alokolum is also located, was attacked by LRA rebels and 41 seminarians were taken away. There is still no trace of twelve of the young men who were abducted. But “there is still hope that some of the former child soldiers will return,” Alule declared.

 

During the 20-year civil war between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government, more than 30,000 children and young people in Northern Uganda were abducted by the LRA rebels. The LRA, which was founded in Uganda in 1987 under the leadership of Joseph Kony and has now been largely driven out of that country, is active today especially in Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

 

 

 

 

Journey with ACN – Tanzania

A house for the Claretian missionaries in Kimara

 ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

The congregation of the Claretian Fathers and Brothers was founded in 1849 by Saint Anthony Maria Claret. Today its members include 19 bishops, over 2,000 priests and 3,000 brothers in 63 different countries around the world. Since 2003 the Claretians have also been active in the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. In fact, they now have a presence in eight different centres. They work in the schools, training and educating children; they provide basic medical support and work on behalf of the disadvantaged, especially those of the ethnic minorities. They support single mothers and encourage people to set up self-help groups. They seek to “see the world through the eyes of the poor,” and strive to alleviate suffering of both body and soul. One of the communities they serve is the parish of Our Lady in Kimara, approximately 290 km from the capital, where they run an extremely active parish composed of almost 11,000 Catholics.

Until now, the Claretians have been living in temporary accommodations which do not even include running water. By building a house for their community, Cardinal Pengo, the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, hopes to make the life and work of these Claretian missionaries a little easier.

Cardinal Pengo has turned to ACN for help with this project and writes, “Your support will undoubtedly encourage the brothers to continue their missionary activities. The lack of a proper house in an area where diseases like malaria are widespread can frequently lead to the missionaries falling ill and being unable to carry out their demanding and extensive regularly planned work. The lack of suitable premises and clean drinking water leaves them living in unhealthy conditions. The catechetical sessions and courses have to be held inside the church itself. Nor do they have any possibility of accommodating even a single visitor. On top of this, their present accommodations do not offer the least degree of security, and this is a region where robberies and break-ins are on the increase. All this makes their life hard and very burdensome.”

  

Problems facing the faithful 

TANZANIE 1The Catholic faithful love their parish, and they love to participate in the Eucharist and pray and meet together. Their numbers are growing steadily. Every day there is a Holy Mass in Kimara, and three Masses a week in outlying stations.

Though many of the local people are poor peasant farmers who make their livelihood by selling what they produce, and the money is barely enough to live on, they are still willing to give a part of this modest income towards the cost of the home, as a way of  giving back to the Brothers in return – because the Claretians have become indispensable through their work of social and economic development – and of salvation.                                                                                                                                      

The young people of the parish intend to help with the construction and greatly appreciate the work the Brothers do. Many have grown-up with only one parent, and often children have had to work to support their families.  

Some live on the streets, and there are many problems that come with it. In the case of  girls, fertility is highly valued, and many of them have children very young without ever having been married. Another problem is the traditional dowry system. Because many families simply cannot afford the dowry and are expected to pay for their daughter’s wedding, many young couples simply live together unmarried. Traditional family structures are collapsing and early sexual contact, teen pregnancies, abortion and crime are very much commonplace. 

What the Claretians bring is a great blessing for the local people, and once they have a  house it  will enable them to devote all their time and energy to those in need of them.

ACN is planning to contribute $21,000 towards this construction project.

 

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

One Million Children Praying the Rosary

New Picture (4)Montreal, Friday, October 18, 2013 – In 2005, an idea was born in Caracas to invite one million children around the world to unite in prayer on behalf of Unity, and of Peace through the intercession and protection of Mary, the Mother of God.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada is uniting with the National Council of Laity (Venezuela) in inviting everyone to realize this dream of gathering one million children to pray.  The intention is to inspire children in their very hearts to understand the need for prayers for peace within everyone, as well as prayers for unity and peace in families, countries and prayers for the whole world.

New Picture (5)To fulfill this dream, no one needs to move around, or incur any cost whatsoever.  To fulfill this dream consists simply of praying the rosary on October 18 at  9 a.m., wherever children may be:  home, school, kindergarten, paediatric hospitals… or elsewhere.

 Imagine then…

Have you ever listened to the rustling of the leaves in a forest populated by thousands of trees on a windy day… listened to a river running down a mountain side on summer’s eve… or have you listened to the silence in the middle of a crowd in contemplation during the wake of someone dear?

New Picture (3)                      Imagine then…

Imagine hearing…

                       One Million Children

                                              …  Praying all at once.

From Cuba to Sri Lanka    From Mali to ’Australia

From Congo to Monaco      From Lebanon to Pakistan

Imagine again…               Imagine hearing           

 A million children           

Praying all at once         For Jesus and for Mary

In their classes or fast asleep

without moving and without a fee

For Love and for Peace 

     

New Picture (2) Listen then…                    And listen again   …        

These, One Million Children

Praying all at once…      

Innumerable testimonials received after the prayer campaign in early years have shown, in Venezuela and elsewhere, the great joy with which thousands of children have accepted this invitation.  Join with us and bring a child by the hand…

 

Persecuted and Forgotten? – Report 2013: The situation of Christians in many countries has sharply deteriorated.

 

ACN-20131003-01339By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by AG Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Montreal, October 17, 2013 – In many countries the situation of Christians has sharply deteriorated. This is the finding of a report (Persecuted and Forgotten? ) due to be launched at a meeting in the UK Houses of Parliament today by the UK office of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The report examines the situation of Christians in 30 different countries, including Afghanistan, China, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. In particular it analyses the situation in a number of majority Islamic countries and in those states whose political systems have a pronounced authoritarian character. The reporting period covers the past two-and-a-half years.

John Pontifex[1]

John Pontifex

John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need UK’s Head of Press and Information, sums up the report as follows: “The principal finding of the report is that in two-thirds of the countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, the problems have become arguably even worse. In fact the Church’s very survival in some parts – notably the Middle East – is now at stake.”

 A Christian exodus of almost biblical proportions 

For Christians, the so-called “Arab spring” has in many cases become what the report calls a “Christian winter.” Although the political upheavals have brought suffering to people of all faith communities, nonetheless it is above all the Christian confessions that have experienced the most open hostility and violence. They have become victims of every kind of political, economic, social and religious conflict – for example the conflicts between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. As a result, a great many Christians have been forced to flee. The report describes the exodus as reaching “almost biblical proportions.”

As John Pontifex explains, “From all accounts, the incidents of persecution are now apparently relentless and worsening; churches being burnt, Christians under pressure to convert, mob violence against Christian homes, abduction and rape of Christian girls, anti-Christian propaganda in the media and from Government, discrimination in schools and the workplace… the list goes on. Persecuted and Forgotten? begs deep questions about the international community’s commitment to standing up for religious freedom.”

ACN-20131003-01340 (1)According to the information presented in Persecuted and Forgotten? the influence of fundamentalist Islamist groups has increased markedly in the past two-and-a-half years. They represent possibly the greatest threat to religious freedom in the world today. Their goal is the elimination, or at the very least the subjugation, of Christians. In communist countries too, the efforts to exert control over the Christian population has increased. However, in these countries Christians tend to be persecuted above all on account of their contacts with dissidents and with the West, and not so much on account of their faith alone. In North Korea there is no official recognition of any religious activities, while those that are tolerated are strictly controlled. China continues to insist on asserting its authority over all Christian groups, especially over those not registered with the State.