There is a growing trend of Christian persecution worldwide, with the case of a Sudanese woman sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her Christian faith just the latest in what former CIA analyst Lisa Ruth characterizes as a religion "under siege" by terror groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Africa’s Boko Haram.
Though Christians have had a presence in the Middle East for centuries, its population has diminished from 20 percent in the early 20th century to just below 5 percent today, said Ruth, who advises the Washington-based LIGNET intelligence forecasting service. She was a guest on Newsmax TV’s
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When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the country was home to 200,000 Christians. Today there are "maybe 10,000," she said.
"No question, Christians are being persecuted," Ruth said. "Right now the situation is the place they're safest is in the Kurdistan region because at least the Kurds, as a minority, are protecting them. But there's absolutely no question they're going to start destroying churches; they've said so. They're going to destroy all these shrines. There's no safety there. If I was a Christian in Iraq, I'd be on my way out."
In the Sudan, 27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim received a death sentence for apostasy, for refusing to renounce her faith, and adultery, for marrying a Christian man. It is against the law in Sudan for a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man. Since Ibrahim’s father is Muslim, Sudanese law also considers her a Muslim, CNN reported.
She was given until May 15 to renounce her faith, but she refused. Ibrahim was sentenced to suffer 100 lashes and then be hanged, according to CNN, but was released from prison earlier this month after international outcry about her sentence. The government arrested her, her husband and their two children at the airport this week as they attempted to leave the country, but the nature of the arrests has not been disclosed.
In Nigeria, the terror organization Boko Haram, whose intent is to establish an Islamic state, has kidnapped
hundreds of people, mostly women and schoolgirls, over the past few months, including nuns who were taken from their convent.
Ruth contends that it appears as though the group has a presence within the Nigerian government, which she says is "absolutely compromised."
And in Egypt, there has been a lull in attacks on Coptic churches, since a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, but whether that will continue is not yet known, she said.
"We do know we haven’t seen attacks on Coptic churches like we saw under the Brotherhood," Ruth said. "There's so much tension in Egypt right now, though it's very, very difficult to say where that's going to go. One of my concerns with Egypt is because of the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood these guys are likely to go underground and start doing some terrorist-like attacks. Who is a likely target? We're back to the Coptic Christians."
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