Photo Credit: Damir Kotoric
Out of every hundred people killed in the world because of their religion, 75 are Christians. Out of every hundred people imprisoned, tortured and persecuted around the world for their religion, 80 are Christians. Denomination of Christianity which they belong to is irrelevant – statistics and religious intolerance, though not sparing the others, work mainly against them.
Prosecution of Christians is not a phenomenon of the modern age. It started as early as the beginning of Christianity. Actually, Christ has suffered because he was persecuted for the faith he preached. Persecution has intensified during the Roman emperors. Christianity was forbidden, at any reference to the Christian faith people ended up crucified on crosses or in the Circus Maximus, where they were left to the mercy of wild beasts, which were tumultuously applauded by the rambunctious masses.
Position of Christians in some parts of the world is rapidly deteriorating, mainly in Islamic countries, although individually classified by the country first place in the index of persecution belongs to North Korea, where even owning a Bible is punishable by death.
Although the subject of the “persecution of Christians” today looks as if it was drawn directly from the national newsletter of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the beginning of the IV century AD, its actuality, although reduced in numbers, did not lose its importance.
Do the cultures of the West and the East today, which in a slow historical process evolved as a secularized Christianity, have a moral right to subject the fate of a relatively small number of disappointed Christians and thus further complicate this already problematic relations with numerous Islamic countries? Indeed they have, and the acts of the pope Francisco, who is constantly ”lobbying” for persecuted Christians around the world, but also Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who persistently urges the Turkish authorities to any attempt of persecution of believers, testify in favor of it.
Fourteen centuries of Islam almost eradicated the Christian community in countries where Christ’s faith emerged and flourished for centuries – from Palestine, Asia Minor, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, etc. Shutting down the remnants of Christianity in the Middle East, which is in progress, is followed by a perfect indifference of the post-Christian West. Once a flourishing Christian community is now reduced to a negligible minority in most countries in the region, their share in the population is measured in single-digit percentages. Will they disappear completely, partly depends on the political decisions of Western leaders, who have not cared about the consequences of their decisions on the fate of the remaining Christians. The change of attitude is unlikely, as the examples of Iraq, Egypt and Syria already show.
Syria is the only remaining country in the Middle East where Christians live on equal terms with their Muslim neighbors. It is the largest Christian community in the region, even with some 2.5 million members. Most of them supported President Bashar al-Assad, as they rather opt for a dictator guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities, but the uncertain future that would be inevitably brought with Assad’s departure. According to George Adjani, American political analysts of Syrian origin, existential fear of the fate that awaits them after the fall of Assad’s regime, is the main motive for almost unanimous support of the Christian community to the present authorities in Damascus.
ISIS changed a lot. In the areas controlled by the terrorists, Christians now live as in times of Caliphate or as the Balkan Christians during the Ottoman Empire. Their rights are limited, they are forced to pay jizya or eket and that is not even enough for Islamic terrorists, so they have practically eliminated all the Christian places of worship and Christian believers are treated as second-class citizens.
In addition to threats from Islamic terrorism, Christians are facing the other ills of the modern world. A good example is the Balkan country in transition, Serbia.
Serbia is one of the few countries where Christians represent over 93% of the population, Orthodox and Roman Catholics. If we take a look at the history of the 20th century, the country has been exposed to communism for a long time, from 1945 until 1990. During that period, Christians were persecuted, churches were closed and the state government did not approve of any form of Christian life. After 1990, the well-known communist dictator Slobodan Milosevic came to the power and continued with the same practice. After 2000 and the first democratic change, Christians hoped that the situation would change. There were no longer communists, but different NGOs that came into epicenter of social events, under a form of neo-liberalism and human rights, began to attack Christians. The main accusations have been based on the account of secularization and excessive interference of the church in state affairs. Of course, none of it was true.
Future of Christianity under these international conditions and circumstances is not great, it is very important for the entire international community to plead for the rights of this religious community that currently suffers the most, much more than the believers of any other faith.