Christian believers in the Middle East
Suppressed by Islamist forces
On the occasion of Human Rights Day, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) would like to draw attention to the fate of Christian converts in Islamic countries. “The Emirate of Qatar – host country of the Football World Cup in the Advent season – is providing financial support for radical Sunni Islamists who are persecuting, expelling, and murdering Christian believers and members of other religious communities in the entire Middle East,” explained Dr. Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East Consultant. “During the cold war, Saudi Arabia was one of the most important money sources for armed Islamist militias. Now, Qatar has taken over this role. While the Emirate is providing the money, the Turkish state – under the Islamist ruler Erdogan – is coordinating and providing logistical support for Sunni Islamists all over the world.”
The experiences in Afghanistan made it clear that it was a mistake of the western governments to provide support for radical Islamist forces, as they strictly reject the concepts of freedom of belief, freedom of speech, and women’s rights. “It was especially the Christians and members of other religious minority groups who became victims of this irresponsible policy – and, among the population majority, especially the women,” Sido added. “Due to the current geopolitical conflicts with Russia and China, Islamist states such as Turkey and Qatar are becoming more important. Apparently, western governments are willing to accept the fact that they are providing support for the Taliban in Afghanistan or for the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria.” Democracy, human rights, and minority rights have fallen by the wayside – just like religious freedom and the Muslim people’s right to change their faith.
Converts also became victims of attacks by Sunni and Shiite Islamists in 2022. In Iran, where many young people are trying to find a religious home in Christianity or Iranian Zoroastrianism – not least because of the politics of the Islamist regime – converts are suffering from severe persecution. “While the regime tolerates Zoroastrianism, Christians are suffering from relentless persecution,” Sido reported. “It is not uncommon that the security forces charge their church services, which are mostly held in private rooms, to arrest the participants.” In Iran, there are many house churches, often led by women. The exact number of such house churches is unknown. According to estimates, there are around 700,000 Christian converts in Iran, most of whom practice their faith in secrecy.
Around 200 foreign Protestant pastors and their families have been expelled from Turkey since 2018 – especially clergy from the United States. The Turkish government is trying to forestall the emergence of regular churches. From the viewpoint of the Turkish authorities, every convert is an agent of the West. This is absurd, since Turkey – as a NATO-member – belongs to the West itself, and since it can rely on support by western states. Christian converts in Qatar are especially vulnerable. If they adopt another faith, this is not accepted, and many are also put under massive pressure by their families to get them to return to Islam.