By Philippe Nassif – The Hill –
The ISIS bombing of St. Mark’s cathedral in Cairo on Dec. 11 2016, the largest church in the Middle East, momentarily brought the suffering of Middle East Christians to the forefront of American consciousness.
In the days since, the coverage has subsided, with more unsettling news from the region. Lost in the news cycle is the question of Christianity’s survival across the Middle East.
American media coverage of religious persecution in the Middle East, particularly violent extremism that targets vulnerable minority groups, has improved in recent years. But there is nothing like the coverage that is merited.
Minorities are, of course, keenly conscious of this – both in the West and the Middle East. But they feel that they are invisible to most observers from the West. There have been some exceptions.
In 2011, after a New Year’s Day attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt, “The Atlantic’s” Jeffrey Goldberg wrote of:
“The lackadaisical coverage of what seems to be the most important story coming out of the Middle East right now. …
“The Salafist war on Christians in the Middle East is intensifying fairly rapidly, with profound consequences not only for Christians in the lands of their faith’s earliest history … but for the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities in the greater Middle East.”
Goldberg observed that the “attack seems like a watershed moment” in a region:
“Historically intolerant of the rights of non-Arab Muslim minorities: The indigenous Africans of Sudan, who are trying to break free of Khartoum’s hold; the Kurds in Iraq and Syria; Christians in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq; and the Jewish people of Israel, among others.
“In Saudi Arabia, of course, it is illegal even to build a church, and I’m afraid it will soon be illegal to build one in Iraq.”
Goldberg’s words proved prophetic. What he foresaw culminated in genocide.
In 2013, Egypt’s Copts were the target of systematic violence, with dozens of churches burned in a single day in coordinated acts of systematic persecution. The following year, ISIS conquered Mosul and then the historic heartland of Christianity in Iraq, the Nineveh Plain.