Below is an English translation of a Danish article written by journalist Christian Foldager for Berlingske, a Danish national paper centered in Copenhagen, following an interview he conducted with me:
The media forgets the most persecuted minority in Gaza and the rest of the Middle East when they cover the war between Hamas and Israel. After the terrorist attack, they risk annihilation in the Palestinian territories, warns an expert.
Raymond Ibrahim points out that a religious minority has long fled Gaza because of the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas.
A religious minority is discriminated against, persecuted and subjected to repeated attacks. Everywhere in the region they are being driven from their homelands.
According to the author of a British government report, “the level and nature of persecution is undoubtedly coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide.”
Yet few people in the Western world have heard of the persecuted Christian minority, which is also an overlooked and vulnerable group during the conflict in Gaza, says Raymond Ibrahim, an expert in Arab relations and associated with the conservative think tanks Gatestone Institute and the Middle East Forum in USA.
His own family history is part of the great narrative of the expulsion of the Christians from the Middle East, he explains.
“My parents fled Egypt when Islamism spread in the late 1960s. They belong to the Christian minority Copts and feared for their future in the country. Like Christians everywhere in the region, they left their homeland and went to the West.’
Raymond Ibrahim’s family is far from alone.
Millions of Christians have been driven from their homes in Muslim countries in recent decades. A century ago, Christians made up 20 percent of the population in the Middle East and North Africa, but since then the share has fallen to less than four percent, according to the British government report from 2019. The report documents that many Christians in the region have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against.
According to Raymond Ibrahim, the expulsion of the Christians from the region is due to the return of Islam in the late 1960s and 1970s. When the European colonial powers withdrew from the region, the religious extremists filled the power vacuum with fatal consequences for the Christian minority, he says.
“They are persecuted because of their faith. Islam is a very divisive and discriminatory religion that will dominate all others. Christians must either convert to or submit to Islam. They must accept a wide range of discriminatory measures if they want to stay in the Middle East.’
According to the British government’s report, the Christians in the Muslim countries are exposed to all kinds of religious persecution, from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life to attacks on churches and Christians with “character of genocide”. It is both state and non-state actors, especially religious extremist groups, that practice discrimination.
“The Christians are essentially second-class citizens in the Middle East. In many Muslim countries, discrimination is not written down in legislation, but is practiced de facto by the authorities. If the Muslim mob attacks a church, the authorities will look the other way and let it happen. Islamic Sharia law is practiced daily, but it is not always official,’ says Raymond Ibrahim.
The persecution of Christians also takes place in Gaza and the West Bank.
The majority of Palestinian Christians have left their homeland in recent decades. The proportion of Christians has thus fallen from 15 percent to two percent of the population in the Palestinian territories.
In Gaza, the number of Christians has been reduced to around 1,000. It is one of the oldest Christian congregations in the world. Now the last remaining in the area fear extinction. According to Raymond Ibrahim, they are regularly persecuted by Hamas in Gaza.
“Christian refugees have reported that Hamas began their persecution of the Christians from the time they took power in 2007. They destroyed churches and forced Christians to convert to Islam. There are also stories of abductions and forced conversion of Christian children. But unfortunately we rarely hear about that in the media.’
Why do we not hear about the persecuted Christians in the Palestinian territories?
“The whole point is that the Palestinians are victims. Therefore, the Muslim majority exerts enormous pressure on the Christians to keep the stories down. The last thing the world needs to know is that the Palestinians themselves are persecuting a minority and driving them out of their land. Many Christians in the Palestinian Territory will be very anti-Israel and pro-Arab until they come to America