Warped zeal against Christians
Members of the Christian faith are increasingly under attack in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. Though the main victims of the rising tide of sectarian violence in the region are Muslim civilians targeted by militants from the rival Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, violence against Christians is also increasing.
There is not much that can be done about this distressing trend so long as radical Islamists are free to target people of other faiths in the increasingly chaotic Mideast.
As Michael Gerson points out on our Commentary page, the persecution and murder of Christians have drawn the attention of Pope Francis and England's Prince Charles, who recently said, "It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants."
Fresh examples include three Christmas Day attacks in Iraq, including a car bomb outside a church service, that killed 37 Christians. And nine nuns were kidnapped early this month in Syria, where there are frequent reports of abductions, torture, mass killings and beheadings of Christians. Violence in Egypt against Coptic Christians peaked last August - for the time being - with the destruction of scores of churches and drive-by killings.
Fundamentalist Muslim clergy and Islamic terrorists seem determined to rid the Mideast of Christians, just as they once drove out Jews. An iman in Iraq has declared that wearing a red Santa Claus hat is equivalent to being converted to Christianity, a capital offense under Muslim law.
Canon Andrew White, the esteemed vicar of St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, reports that Iraqi Christians are "frightened even to walk to church because they might come under attack. All the churches are targets ... We used to have 1.5 million Christians, now we have probably only 200,000 left."
As Mr. Gerson notes, religious tolerance is one of the fruits of Western democracy - but it is also the outcome of centuries of religious strife in Europe that gradually led people to seek a separation between church and state.
In contrast, a major objective of fundamentalist Muslim groups is to impose a particular form of religious law, Sharia, on everyone. As Prince Charles has said, the bridges of respect and understanding that he and other world leaders have tried to build with moderate Muslim leaders "are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so."
The world is a darker place because of their murderous zeal. This intensifying animus toward Christians demands sweeping - and continuing - condemnation by the international community.