Intolerance toward Christians continued to grow in 2011, according to year-end assessments by human-rights and Christian organizations. In particular, acts of violence against Christians during the holidays increased drastically.
Stonegate Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches human rights issues, cited recent Nigerian church bombings — in which the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram killed more than 40 people attending a Christmas service — as an obvious example of intensifying violence. And in Iran, the State Security centers of the Islamic Republic ordered local churches to cancel Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Churches in Egypt, Malaysia and Pakistan also closed during the holidays to avoid attacks.
“Around the Muslim world, Christmas time for Christians [was] a time of increased threats, harassment and fear, which is not surprising, considering that some Muslim clerics maintain that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is worse than fornication or killing someone,” wrote Raymond Ibrahim of Stonegate Institute.
In Indonesia, incidents of Christian persecution nearly doubled in 2011, and an Islamic extremist group is threatening to have five churches demolished because they don’t have permits, according to Compass Direct News. In Ethiopia, a group of 500 Muslims burned down a church, also citing the church’s lack of a permit. The church had existed there for 60 years on land owned by Christians.
In countries like Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, Christians are often viewed as second-class citizens. Persecution in these countries is commonly manifested through the sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; unjust enforcement of apostasy and blasphemy laws; the theft of Christians’ property and the plunder and burning of their homes; and physical attacks and murder.
Despite the growth of Islamic extremism around the world, evangelicalism has surged in an unlikely place — Afghanistan. As a country with one of the lowest percentages of evangelicals, with an estimated 500 to 8,000 Christians, Afghanistan now has the second fastest growing evangelical population in the world, according to Operation World and WORLD Magazine.
Nearly all instances of persecution in 2011 were connected by one thing, according to Stonegate’s Ibrahim — “Islam, whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law or the supremacist culture born of it.”
Sources: Stonegate Institute, Operation World, WORLD Magazine