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The Persecuted Church: 2012


Here's a rundown of some 2012 incidents in Muslim nations that have received insufficient media attention.

Egyptian Coptic Christians in
protest against violence

For some years, I have had the privilege of serving as Chairman of Aid to the Church in Need U.S.A., a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians.  In this position, I see plenty of data describing anti-Christian acts. Here's a rundown of some 2012 incidents in Muslim nations that have received insufficient media attention:

Egypt:   For the 13 million Christians in Egypt, the "Arab Spring" is turning into the "Arab Winter." Since the Muslim brotherhood emerged victorious in the presidential election, they are under constant threat of physical violence and economic hardship.

In August 2012, for instance, 120 Coptic families fled from the village of Dahshur, south of Cairo, following a dispute between a Coptic tailor and his Muslim customer.  The tailor's house was burned to the ground and the customer severely injured.  Muslims seeking revenge also burned down a church and drove Christians from their homes.

Bishop Kyrillos, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assuit, warned the new government, "The new constitution should be for all Egyptians not just one group."  He underscored the right of Christians to participate in the creation of a new Egypt.

Reacting to the threats of Muslim Brotherhood militias to Christians demonstrating against President Morsi's proposed constitution, Father Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Bishops, did not mince his words:  "Whenever Islam becomes politicized it automatically turns into a fascist dictatorship.  Then comes the impending threat that sharia in its most fundamental form will be introduced."

Church officials fear that there will be a mass Christian exodus from Egypt because wording of sections of the constitution are open to fundamentalist interpretations that deny religious liberty.

Bosnia-Herzegovina:   Eighteen years after the end of the war in the Balkans, discrimination against Catholics is still rampant.  Confiscated Church real estate has not been returned.  Catholic parishes and homes are denied electricity.  Priests are refused medical care despite a Vatican accord with Bosnia, which provides for it.

With more and more Saudi Arabian extremists immigrating to Bosnia and opening businesses, abuse of Catholics, particularly nuns wearing habits, has significantly increased.  Sister Ivanka, Bosnian Provincial Superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, notes, "every day life is becoming increasingly difficult in general."  Nuns travel in pairs out of fear of abuse and they are turned away or harassed at local shops.  At one bakery, according to Sister Ivanka, several sisters had this experience:  "Although the loaves were in plain sight, the proprietor claimed he was out of bread . . . He simply did not want to sell it to a Catholic nun."

"Whenever Islam becomes politicized it automatically turns into a fascist dictatorship. . . "

Cardinal Vinko Pulic, Archbishop of Sarajevo, reported last year to Aid to the Church in Need that, "the growing process of Islamization in Bosnia-Herzegovina is being funded by radicals in the Middle East."  In recent years, over seventy new mosques were built in Sarajevo with Saudi oil-dollars.

Tens of thousands of Catholics were killed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and since then a majority has fled.  Today, there are approximately 450,000 down from 835,000.

Albania:   Orthodox Christians represent 20 percent of Albania's population and Catholics 10 percent.  Young Imams trained in Turkey and Saudi Arabia increasingly threaten both.  These scholars demand a "pure, strict Islam" and promote building only Islamic schools.  That attitude, plus widespread corruption and unclear property rights, has halted construction of chapels, churches, rectories, and parochial schools.

Syria:   Christians throughout this war-torn nation are being targeted and driven from their homes.  Bishop Antoine Audo, S.J. of Aleppo recounts that after religiously motivated violence in the Christian quarter of the City of Homs, which has been the home to one of Syria's largest Christian populations, there "was a mass exodus of almost all of the faithful, more than 120,000."  He predicts that Christians will be targeted and driven away in Damascus and Aleppo as well:  "The fear of Christians is particularly strong.  We are a minority.  Always we are threatened."

Pakistan :   In January 2012, without warning, the Punjab government ordered bulldozers onto land owned by the Catholic diocese since 1887 and demolished a church, a girl's school, and homes for the poor, elderly, and homeless.

The ordinary, Bishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, accused the government of a "very brutal act of injustice" and "carrying out a criminal act of land-grabbing." Dr. Paul Bhatti, brother of Pakistan's assassinated Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, has called on the international community to help Christians there.  Dr. Bhatti, like his martyred brother, is a Catholic and points out that new blasphemy laws, as well as growing intolerance and fanaticism, has led to an increase in arbitrary actions against many of the nation's 1.2 million Catholics.

They don't really care about the fate of the Christians in the Middle East. Otherwise, they would advocate equality before the law and the observance of human rights for all, including in those countries where the so-called Arab Spring has taken place . . .

The near total silence internationally towards these situations across the Middle East is deeply disturbing and bodes ill for the future.  The patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church in Beirut, Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III, recently told Aid to the Church in Need:

Permit me to speak quite frankly.  There's a lot of hypocrisy in all this.  For many [EU] governments it's merely a matter of economic interests.  They don't really care about the fate of the Christians in the Middle East.  Otherwise, they would advocate equality before the law and the observance of human rights for all, including in those countries where the so-called Arab Spring has not taken place . . . This is not a matter of taking sides for or against Assad or some other potentate in the region.  It's a matter of equal rights for all.  It's a matter of the primacy of human rights and not the primacy of one religion . . . I said it to the government in Paris and I'll say it to you: Fundamentalist Islam does not want a dialogue on equal terms in the long run.  If the EU were serious about its human rights principles, they would openly take up the cause of the future of younger generations in the region.


George J. Marlin. "The Persecuted Church: 2012." The Catholic Thing (January 23, 2013).

Reprinted with permission from The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to:

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The Author

Marlin1Marlin2George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic Voter, and  Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State ConservativeNarcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative. His most recent book is Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy

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