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Persecution of Christians in the Middle East in light of History

Updated on January 26, 2015
Ms Dee profile image

Deidre has a Masters in applied linguistics and translation for her 20 years overseas, then she worked as a certified provider of the MBTI®.


Open Doors, a faith-based mission supporting persecuted Christian believers, reports that

Over 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest, and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ, with another 200 to 400 million facing discrimination and alienation.

Events during the 1990s confirmed though that the U.S. government supports only those churches who possess sufficient "influence" in Washington, while ignoring the plight of the Orthodox. After 1989, Orthodox Christians in both Poland and Slovakia warned the U.S. government that they were "at risk" as religious minorities, but no action was taken to press for securing the rights of these minorities.

Persecution and harassment continues because of an assumption now that the U.S. is not interested in their fate, and that America will not undertake any effort (other than occasional lip service) to secure religious freedom.

Persecution to rid Asia of Christians

As with the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust, Christians in the Middle East have faced a number of purges and holocausts by the region's rulers over time.


1914 400,000 conscripts perished in forced labor brigades

1922 100,000 massacred or burned alive in Smyrna

1916-1922 350,000 Pontions massacred or killed during forced deportations

1914-1922 900,000 perish from maltreatment, starvation and massacres; total
of all other areas of Asia Minor

TOTAL: 1,750,000 Greek Christians martyred 1914-1922


1894-1896 300,000 massacred

1915-1916 1,500,000 perish in massacres and forced deportations (with
subsidiaries to 1923)

1922 30,000 massacred or burned alive in Smyrna

TOTAL: 1,800,000 Armenian Christians martyred 1894-1923


1915-1917 100,000 Christians massacred


Fleeing persecution


Ottoman Empire policy of Genocide


The Ottoman Empire carried out a policy of Genocide of its Christian population. It began with systematic massacres, the killing of 300,000 Armenians throughout the provinces. Then massacres recurred, as in 1909 government troops killed in the towns of Adana alone over 20,000 Christian Armenians.

In WWI, the Ottoman Empire allied itself with Germany and decided to eliminate the whole of the Christian population of Greeks, Armenians, Syrians and Nestorians based on a policy of ethnic cleansing.

In 1915, the mass arrest and murder began of the leaders in Constantinople and elsewhere in the empire. Then a carefully planned genocide was carried out in every Armenian community:

Arrest of clergy and other prominent persons, disarmament of the population and Armenian soldiers serving in the Ottoman army, segregation and public execution of leaders and able-bodied men, and the deportation to the deserts of the remaining Armenian women, children and elderly.

Assyrian Christians

Said to be the indigenous people of Iraq, Assyrians have been in the Middle East from the time of Christ. They became the first nation to accept Christianity, and one of the largest missionary-sending peoples in Christian history (A History of Christianity by Kenneth Scott LaTourette). They are now one of the last remaining Christian communities in the Middle East.

History Of Christianity, Vol. 2: Reformation To The Present
History Of Christianity, Vol. 2: Reformation To The Present

"Traces the course of Christianity from AD 1500 to the present day, charting its geographical, doctrinal, and denominational developments and impact against the background of world history."

A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam
A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam

The author grew up in Syria in a culture ruled by a god who hates women. “How can such a culture be anything but barbarous?” She believes that the god who hates is waging a battle between modernity and barbarism, not a battle between religions.


Present Day Attacks on Christians

It was only two generations back that Assyrian Christians made up 20% of the Middle East population, but during the Assyrian Genocide of 1915, an estimated three million Christians were slaughtered there.

Purges by the region's rulers that Christians have faced include the present attacks by powerful Islamic factions across Iran, Iraq and neighboring nations. The following link reports the beheading of a 14-year old Christian boy.

Assyrian Christians - one of the last remaining Christian communities in the Middle East - tens of thousands have fled their traditional homelands in recent months. Current estimates say there are about 2.5 million Assyrian Christians in Iraq.

Christian Exodus

Since the October 2010 slaughter of 57 churchgoers in Baghdad, there has been a steady exodus of Christians from the Middle East and especially Iraq. This is not just simply a "clash of civilizations," nor the same climate of threat, intimidation and violence that has been boiling up in places where Muslim majorities collide with a Christian minority, like Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, Nigeria, etc.

The following link reports that

nowhere is a palpable sense of fear and a Christian exodus from the Middle East more dramatic right now than Iraq, where analysts estimate that fully half of the country's Christians have left since 2003. [emphasis mine]

This climate of fear was made horrifyingly real on Oct. 31, 2010 at the Syrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. It was then that it became clear that Al Qaeda-inspired elements were going to go to the extreme against Western influence in the Middle East by targeting indigenous Christians—trying to bring to an end in Iraq a Christian presence of 2,000 years.

Account of Persecution in Afghanistan

A death sentence verdict is looking likely - the day of this article's publishing - for a new Christian in northern Afghanistan. He was reported to authorities when he tried to give a Bible to someone in Mazar-e-Sharif.

However, the accused, Shoaib Assadullah, states that he has given his life completely into the hands of Jesus.

Afghanistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including even the change of one's religion.

Eyewitness Account of Genocide in Jos, Nigeria - March 2010

Holy War in the Middle East

© 2011 Deidre Shelden


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    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      marwan, yes, the video does generalize, which is often the case in that media. However, from what I have been reading is currently happening to, say, the Copts in Egypt, this is not just an every day running of society. Though it is not the first time in history, persecution of Christians and Jews is currently on the rise in the Middle East.

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Ms Dee, I think from what I heard in the video above, is that there is a lot of generalizations going on. I don't want to go point-by-point but in Jordan for instance the Christain community is vibrant and wealthy, they are part of civil society. We have here many churches with many denomenations. In Egypt, the Copts number around 8 million people. Ok, I agree problems occur here and there but isn't this part of the running of day-to-day society. There is absolutely no need to generalize, everyone has been persecuted through out history.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks, PofC, for letting me know you found this of value to share. Yes, I think the seeds have been well planted for persecution here in America.

    • PoweroftheCross profile image

      PoweroftheCross 6 years ago from Above and Beyond...

      Excellent article. We must look out in America now, persecution seeds perhaps have been planted. Is the name of Jesus that hard for un-belivers to bear? Yes, for the children are banned from saying it.

      Facebooked and tweeted this one...

    • swb78 profile image

      Scott Biddulph 7 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

      This is an amazing Hub! you are a very talented writer and reporter, great read very good information. Scott

    • Osita Ebiem profile image

      Osita Ebiem 7 years ago from New York

      Thank you Ms Dee for bringing out this gory picture of man's inhumanity against their fellows for the world to see. Islam is easily the worst thing that has happened to this world.

    • Jisblessed profile image

      Jisblessed 7 years ago

      Truly an eye opener indeed. It makes my trials a lot less magnified within me. I have not resisted unto blood to cost me my life. My heart and prayers are with the suffering Christians and I am more thankful to God for my life. Great hub and well reported.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      SirDent, that is true about the only ones who still do beheadings. Yes! That 14-year-old will reign with Christ! :)

    • profile image

      SirDent 7 years ago

      They hated Jesus, so certainly they will likewise hate His followers. Something I noticed about the 14 year old boy who was beheaded.

      In Revelation it is written that some will be beheaded for the witness of Christ. The only religion that I know of who still uses beheading as a punishment is Islam.

      Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      I'm hoping it is an eye opener, lifegate - thanks! Yes, they are the ones who know what it is to suffer for Christ. I served a people group who are numbered among these and they surely know much more than we do of this.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 7 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Ms Dee,

      That should be an eye opener. While we sit in "safe" America, our brothers and sisters are suffering and for the most part we never even think of them. Thanks for bringing out the sad statistics.

    • Wintermyst profile image

      Wintermyst 7 years ago

      Well written with documentation. You did a great job on this.