international community to lift its sanctions.

Non ci sono cronache arabi dell'Islam del primo secolo dell'Islam. Molti dei primi documenti conosciuti sull'Islam si riferiscono ai seguaci di Maometto come "hagarenes," e la "tribù di Ismaele", in altre parole, come discendenti di Agar, la serva che gli ebrei patriarca Abramo utilizzato per padre di suo figlio Ismaele.
Questa stessa qualità di trasmissione si trova per quanto riguarda la Bibbia ebraica e cristiana non si può dire del Corano islamico. Il Corano islamico è stato in gran parte scritto da conti a mano 3 ° e 4, e da alcune riflessioni scritte su carta di scarto, foglie di palma e pietre - e compilato più di 150 anni dopo la morte di Maometto nel 632 dC Nel lMasabih il Mishtatu ', capitolo 3, veniamo informati che dal comando del primo califfo, Abu Bakr, il testo del Corano è stato "raccolto" da Zaid ibn Thabit "di foglie di palma e le pietre e dal petto di coloro che aveva imparato a memoria" le rivelazioni varie. "copia di Abu Bakr è entrato in possesso di Hafsah, una delle vedove di Maometto. Qustalani afferma che dopo la morte è il suo Hafsah copia è stata fatta a pezzi da Mirwan, che fu governatore di Medina.
La datazione più antica di tutto Corano 790 dC (dopo Cristo), ed è nella British Library. E '158 anni dopo la morte di Maometto. Vedi Corano corrotto qui.
I musulmani spesso affermano che il manoscritto del Corano nel Museo Topkapi di Istanbul, la Turchia è una delle più antiche fonti. I musulmani dicono che risale da circa 650 dC Vi è un problema insormontabile con questo. Questo documento è scritto in cufico (noto anche come al-Khatt al-Kufi) script. Monete in mostra al British Museum che le prime monete con la data cufico script dalla metà alla fine del 8 ° secolo (750-800 dC). Lo script utilizzato solo durante e dopo giorni di Maometto era lo script Jazm. Le prime copie del Corano sono scritti senza vocali e punti diacritici che la moderna araba usa per mettere in chiaro ciò che la lettera è destinato. Nei secoli VIII e IX, più di un secolo dopo la morte di Maometto, i commentatori islamici aggiunto segni diacritici per chiarire le ambiguità del testo

There are no Arabic chronicles of Islam from the first century of Islam. Many of the earliest documents known about Islam refer to the followers of Muhammad as "hagarenes," and the "tribe of Ishmael," in other words as descendants of Hagar, the servant girl that the Jewish patriarch Abraham used to father his son Ishmael.
This same quality of transmission we find regarding the Jewish and Christian bible cannot be said of the Islamic Qur'an. The Islamic Qur'an was mostly written down from 3rd and 4th hand accounts; and from a few thoughts written on scrap papers, palm leaves and stones --and compiled over 150 years after Muhammad died in 632 A.D. In the Mishtatu 'lMasabih, chapter 3, we are informed that by the command of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, the text of the Qur'an was "collected" by Zaid ibn Thabit "from palm leaves and stones and from the breasts of those who had learned by heart" the various revelations." Abu Bakr's copy came into the possession of Hafsah, one of Muhammad's widows. Qustalani states that after Hafsah's death her copy was torn to pieces by Mirwan, who was governor of Medina.
The oldest Qur'an dates from around 790 A.D. (after Jesus), and it is in the British Library. That's 158 years after Muhammad's death. See corrupted Qur'an here .
Muslims often claim that the manuscript of the Qur'an housed in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey is one of the oldest sources. Muslims say it dates from around 650 A.D. There is an insurmountable problem with this. This document is written in Kufic (also known as al-Khatt al-Kufi) script. Coins in the British Museum show that the first coins using the Kufic script date from the mid to end of the 8th century (750-800 A.D.). The only script used during and after Muhammad's days was the Jazm script. These earliest copies of the Qur'an are written without vowels and diacritical dots that modern Arabic uses to make it clear what letter is intended. In the eighth and ninth centuries, more than a century after the death of Muhammad, Islamic commentators added diacritical marks to clear up the ambiguities of the text.
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24. Comoros
Although Comoros went down in the World Watch List 2012 from position 21
to 24, the persecution dynamics stayed the same: though hardly any incident
was reported, government restraints remained tight and mainstream Muslim
society firmly stayed alert for “dissidents.” In the context of Islamic extremism
both government and society acted as drivers of persecution, but the emphasis
was on society.
A referendum passed in May 2009 installed Islam to be the state religion,
infringing seriously upon freedom of religion. The penal code prohibits
proselytizing for any religion except Islam. Any converts from Islam to
Christianity can be prosecuted in court. Therefore, Muslim Background Believers
operate in underground fellowships. Only expatriates are allowed to operate
churches in the country. Police are vigilant and question foreigners closely so
that they don’t distribute religious materials.
The indigenous Muslim community puts much pressure on non-Muslim citizens
and foreigners to practice elements of Islam in Comoros, particularly during
Ramadan. This intimidates non-Muslims and causes them to worship in
seclusion and in fear. To see such harshness from the Islanders is unexpected.
Most citizens know each other well and are friendly to each other regardless of
faith. The influence of radical elements from Iran, however, causes Muslims in
local mosques to be vigilant about Christian activities. A source person stated,
“Through them the Christian faith is constantly vilified, they hype the emotions,
and encourage persecution.”
Iranian influence goes back to Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, the previous
President of Comoros elected in May 2006. He was a cleric and businessman
who studied Islamic political theory in Iran and was a close friend to Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad. They developed bilateral ties on economic
issues and exchange of research, technology and information in 2006. Ever
since, the two countries have had cultural and political commonalities, and
have maintained close relations. The political and religious influence of Iran has
been very strong, now even more with the demise of Col. Muamar Gadaffi of
Libya, who was trying to compete with Iran.
The new believers have withstood a lot of pressure, and now they have more
acceptance in some parts of society than before. For instance, in Gran Comoros
the believers have to worship in secret. Relatives of the people have accepted
the new faith of the believers, while the other parties (police, extremist
elements, Mosque leadership) are not open to this. In the region Anjouan,
especially the town Mutsamadu, the believers and their place of worship are
known, but nobody has bothered them. This positive tendency is however
balanced by a mainstream society that sternly guards Muslim rules and
worship, and radical elements from Iran who eagerly correct signs of
weakening of anti-Christian sentiment. Whether actively involved or not,
government has established the necessary framework for this persecution
dynamic. Open Doors expects persecution to grow in the near future. The
number of believers is reported to be growing in size and strength. Although
numbers are still very limited, that can’t but encourage negative reactions from
the different parties involved in the religious setting in the Comoros.
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25. Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan ranks lower than last year, but increased in points.
The Republic of Azerbaijan, bordering Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and
Iran, is officially a secular state, somewhat comparable to the Turkish model.
The majority of its population is Muslim. The government has a negative
attitude towards any form of religion. The attitude towards Christians is not
different. Fundamentalist Islam is perceived as a destabilizing factor for the
country’s rulers. The presence of a huge Azeri community in Islamic Iran to the
south is a cause of concern.
The influence of traditional Islam is growing in various regions of this country.
The oppression of Christians is not only religious, but also nationalistic/ethnic.
Azeri believers are considered traitors as Christianity is associated with the
country’s archenemy, Armenia.
The general perception of Christians in Azerbaijan is negative. According to our
reports, official checks are becoming increasingly strict. The government has
become more active in controlling religion, and, compared to previous years,
the position of Christians has deteriorated. All churches and religious groups
were required to renew their registration by Jan. 1, 2010, but since that date
no new churches have been able to get registration. Unregistered religious
activities are punishable, and the fines on breaking the law are high, but
successful registration is close to impossible. Almost all Protestant
denominations are still without legal status. Private homes cannot be used for
holding religious services. Congregations without registration get into trouble
with the police. Protestant churches are raided, with church leaders arrested or
fined.
There is no freedom at all to build church buildings. Churches need explicit
permission to do so, and this is hardly ever granted. Over the past year no such
permission was given. Christians often refrain from even beginning the
permission procedure. Under the December 2010 legislation, it is illegal for
unregistered churches to meet, but some take the risk anyway.
Many Christians are unable to find or keep jobs and are watched closely by the
secret services. The role of the secret services and police is important, but there
is also a Committee on Religious Affairs which controls almost everything.
However, the number of indigenous believers continues to grow, and some
continue to be active in outreach despite the risk. The growth of the church is
encouraging, but under increasing legislative restrictions, oppression is also
expected to increase.
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26. Libya
Libya drops one position on the WWL to number 27, but increases in points.
Under the despotic rule of Muammar Gaddafi, the situation for Christians in
Libya was already extremely harsh. There were some freedoms for expat
Christians, who are mostly temporary workers from neighboring African
countries. Black and non-Arab Africans faced racism. Immediately after the
revolution, it was difficult for them as they were seen as possible mercenaries
working for Gaddafi. During Gaddafi’s reign, Libya did not have a real
constitution. There was a book with some legal prescriptions called the Green
Book, but in practice Gaddafi’s will was law. The feared and omnipresent secret
police made sure that restrictions on the organization of church activities and
distribution of Christian literature were enforced and evangelism was
criminalized.
As in most Muslim countries, converting from Islam brings social pressure.
Muslim Background Believers are always at risk from their families; there were
some reported cases of beatings by family members. Most Libyan Christians are
afraid to meet with other believers, as any kind of religious gathering (other
than Islamic) for Libyans is forbidden. Expats are allowed to have their own
churches, but Libyans are not allowed to attend. This last year, many expat
churches had their permits withdrawn, and at least two Christians were
imprisoned and possibly tortured. Christians that are released from prison are
generally expelled from the country.
The revolutions in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, and the military support by
NATO, gave Libyans the courage to fight Gaddafi, who had been in power since
1969. But after a bloody civil war that led to the death of Gaddafi, it is feared
the future will be worse than under Gaddafi. During the uprisings that started
in February and led to civil war, Christians were more open about their faith in
Jesus Christ. These Christians now fear the consequences of their witness.
Because of the unrest, 75% of the expat Christians left the country and it is not
clear how many Christians remain or will return in the future.
The National Transition Council (NTC) that took over after months of fighting
has already revealed its intentions regarding religious freedom by setting a
dangerous precedent. Under their supervision the Saint Georges Church in
Tripoli was ransacked when they took control of Tripoli. Also, two Christians
have been held hostage by the NTC because of importing Christian books. The
NTC is expected to implement sharia law and make Libya an even more Islamic
state than before. The then president of the NTC publically announced a
“democracy according to sharia,” which is a contradiction in itself. This would
make the position of Christians even more difficult than before, in a country
where all citizens were already considered Sunni Muslims by law.
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27. Oman
Oman has seen protests and civil unrest since January 2011, which caused
the deaths of two people. However, after promising to create 50,000 jobs,
allowing citizens more freedom of speech, improving the social welfare
system and changing the cabinet, most turmoil faded away.
There is no visible change in the situation of the local Christians. The Omani
Constitution declares that “the freedom to practice religious rites in
accordance with recognized customs is guaranteed provided that it does not
disrupt public order or conflict with accepted standards of behavior.” Islam is
the state religion and legislation is based on Islamic law. All public school
curriculums include instruction in Islam. Apostasy is not a criminal offense,
but it is not respected by the legal system either, which assumes that all
citizens are Muslims. The very concept of change of faith for an Omani citizen
is an anathema. A converts faces problems under the Personal Status and
Family Legal Code, which prohibits a father from having custody of his
children if he leaves Islam. During the reporting period, deportations of
foreign workers (because of Christian activities) continued.
Almost the entire Christian population (around 35,000) is expatriate; there
are only a few indigenous Christians. All religious organizations must register,
and Christian meetings are monitored for political messages and nationals
attending. Foreign Christians are allowed to discretely worship in private
homes or work compounds. Their facilities are restricted in order not to
offend nationals. Muslim-background believers (MBBs) risk persecution from
family and society. MBBs can lose their family, house and job and even could
be killed.
There was a minor increase in points (now 42 versus 41 for the last WWL) for
Oman which was mainly caused by the above mentioned deportations and by
more information on the constitution and national laws, which are more
restrictive on religious freedom than previously assumed. The small increase
in points does not lead to a higher ranking on the WWL: Oman holds position
42 (versus 41 last year). This apparent paradox is explained by the
considerable increase in numbers for other countries on this year’s list.
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28. Brunei
Brunei is a small state on the South East Asian island of Borneo, embedded in
the Malaysian State. The observation of the small Christian minority has
tightened, thus bringing a slight increase in the country’s position in this
year’s World Watch List.
Brunei Darussalam is an Islamic nation, based on an ideology called Melayu
Islam Beraja (Malay Muslim Monarchy). The religion of Brunei Darussalam is
the Muslim Religion according to the Shafeite sect of that religion. All other
religions may be practiced in peace and harmony by the person professing it
in any part of the country. In practice, this means that only non-Malays are
able and allowed to choose their faith. If a Malay converts, this “disturbs
peace and harmony” and he is automatically scheduled for re-education to
the Islamic faith.
In the reporting period the Sultan announced his aim to introduce an Islamic
Criminal Law which will complicate the situation for the small Christian
minority even further, especially for Muslim-background believers known to
have converted. The monitoring of churches and Christian meetings seems to
have increased. The state sends spies to those gatherings, so Christians have
to exercise more caution. In one case, a pastor was openly warned by
authorities to be cautious with his Christian activites and with whom he
meets.
It is very difficult for existing churches to get the government’s permission to
renovate a church building. Permission for expansions is never granted,
whether churches are registered or not. Importing Bibles, Christian literature,
and other materials is restricted to personal use only. Importing for ministry
purposes is not possible. Materials in the national language are especially
suspect and thus difficult to obtain. Accordingly, churches have to be careful;
they experience challenges in training and work.
As long as the state demonstrates preference for one specific religion, denies
freedom of religious choice, and links conversion with peace and harmony in
society, nothing substantial will change for the Christian minority.
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29. Morocco
The revolutionary wave that went through North Africa and the Middle East
known as the Arab Spring has also flooded Morocco. In the case of Morocco,
the protests did not bring the monarchy to an end, but King Mohammed VI
had to adopt a number of reforms in order to restore social peace. The protests
were finally subdued in July, forcing the King to vast political concessions,
including government changes, a referendum on constitutional reforms, a
greater commitment to respect civil rights and an end to corruption.
Out of pragmatism, Mohammed VI—who is considered a direct descendent of
the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam—has given in to the pressure of
the moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD). In the parliamentary
elections that were held at the end of 2011, the PJD obtained a huge victory,
and based on the new constitutional procedures, must now provide a Prime
Minister.
The Moroccan church is not recognized by the authorities, but the expat
Church is. The expat Moroccan church has always suffered from oppression,
although it was never as harsh as in neighboring North African countries. The
main source of persecution is Muslim fundamentalist influence on the
authorities and in society.
Islam is the official state religion, but the constitution provides some freedom
of religion. There are, nevertheless, a number of practical restrictions in
exercising this freedom. For example, the government prohibits the distribution
of Christian religious materials, bans all proselytizing, and tolerates several
small religious minorities with varying degrees of restrictions. Foreign Christian
communities openly practice their faith. Voluntary conversion is not a crime in
Moroccan law, and is therefore implicitly accepted. However, Moroccan
Muslims who convert to Christianity are treated as criminals by the police and
face rejection from friends and most family members.
Compared to 2011, the situation of Christians in Morocco seems to have
improved a little. Morocco, nevertheless, goes up on the WWL, basically
because Islamist forces are becoming more visible in the country. While 2010
was characterized by big pressures on the Moroccan church and the expulsion
of over 150 missionaries and Christian expatriate workers, 2011 did not see
many incidents against Christians. The authorities dedicated most of their
energy and resources to control the uprisings throughout the country, which
gave them less time to monitor Moroccan Christians and churches.
The Arab Spring gave the younger Christian generation a feeling of hope and
so they are encouraged to struggle for more freedom. The future will tell
whether this hope will become a reality, or if government restrictions will
increase again. “Can Morocco’s Islamists check al-Qaeda?” Le Monde
Diplomatique asked in 2007. This is still a valid question today. The answer to
this question will depend on how moderate the Islamists in government will be,
and if moderate Muslims will be able to form a coalition to withstand the
pressures of al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups.
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30. Kuwait
“The popular uprisings witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa
region since early 2011 have inspired some protests in Kuwait, but these are
unlikely to lead to any radical changes in the system,’’ stated a November 30th
report of the Economist Intelligence Unit. However, Kuwait’s Prime Minister
Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah and his cabinet resigned in December
2011 over an alleged corruption row with their parliamentary opponents.
The Kuwaiti Constitution declares that the State protects the freedom of belief.
However, it also mentions some limitations: the practice of religion should not
conflict with public order or morals and be in accordance with established
customs. The government implemented these restrictions from time to time.
According to the constitution, Islam is the state religion and Islamic law (sharia)
is an important source of legislation.
Conversion from Islam to another religion is not permitted and the government
actively supported proselytism by Sunni Muslims. For MBBs, the main
persecution engines are family and Muslim extremists, and to a lesser extent
authorities. There are only a few hundred Kuwaiti believers (MBBs), as most
Christians are migrant workers from outside the country. The MBB number is
growing rapidly and they are becoming bolder and bolder in sharing their faith.
Converts risk discrimination, harassment, police monitoring of their activities,
arbitrary arrest and detention, physical and verbal abuse. Also, a change of
faith (away from Islam) is not recognized and is likely to lead to legal problems
in personal status and property matters in court. The government requires
Islamic religious instruction for all students in public and private schools.
Teaching Christianity is prohibited, even to legally recognized Christians. The
Christian community mostly consists of foreign migrant workers. Expat
Christians are relatively free to worship informally. There are four registered
denominations which meet in compounds. However, these are too small for the
number of people gathering and local Kuwaitis are annoyed by the noise and
traffic of these overcrowded meeting places. The extreme difficulty to obtain
property to gather for worship is an extra burden. On the other hand, the
sharing of meeting places has encouraged greater cooperation and fellowship
among churches.
The situation of religious freedom for Christians has been more or less stable
over the past few years. During the previous reporting period we received
reports of a Christian who had to flee for his faith and a Christian was arrested.
Also during this reporting period, a Christian was forced to flee. We did not
report any arrests, but this does not necessarily mean it did not happen. This
year Open Doors gathered more information on the constitution and national
laws, which are more restrictive on religious freedom than previously assumed.
This led to a minor increase in points, from 40 last year to 40.5 this year,
bringing Kuwait to place 30 from position 28 last year.
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31. Turkey
Turkey went from rank 30 in 2011 to rank 31 this year, but increased in points.
In name, Turkey is a secular state, but various forms of persecution of Christians
exist. Government restrictions on religious freedom basically originate in
interpretations of the secular constitution and laws of the country, which are
biased against non-Muslim minorities. There is a huge difference between the
formal interpretation of the country’s secular legislation and the informal
practices by government officials, police officers and judges.
Government restrictions, social hostilities and nationalism are important sources
of persecution, causing human rights violations (hate crimes, unfair judicial
treatments, discrimination, etc.). People with a Muslim background who are
interested in the gospel are often victims of strong discrimination by their
families. In a patriarchal society such as in Turkey, a conversion of one of the
family members is thought to bring shame on the family. Many converted
Christians are disinherited or are told they are no longer part of the family.
Muslims who convert to the Christian faith risk losing their jobs. The government
remains passive when they learn of these types of discrimination, because it only
concerns a very small minority.
Some churches are registered and have authorizations to organize church
services. Preaching in public is allowed, but these preachers risk harassment both
by police and Turkish nationalists. Missionary work is possible, but missionaries
do not get a residency permit if they request it to work as a missionary.
A Bible translation in modern Turkish was made available years ago, and the
printing and distribution of Bibles and Christian literature in churches is
permissible, though open distribution results in problems.
Christians engaged in religious advocacy are occasionally threatened or
pressured by government and state officials. Proselytizing by non-Muslim
religious groups is socially unacceptable and sometimes dangerous.
Police officers are present in some church services to protect church-goers, but
also to monitor the activities of Christians. However, this protection is
intermittent, and from time to time church properties are vandalized.
The traditionally secular state, under constant protection by the national army,
has in recent years become more open to public expressions of Islam under the
government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo an and President Abdullah Gül
of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002.
When Turkey was actively negotiating its membership in the European Union, the
country adopted a series of reforms in order to comply with the Copenhagen
criteria. These initially contributed to increased religious tolerance in the country
and protection for minorities. The Malatya murders in 2007 negatively affected
Turkey’s image on the international stage, and the trial against the murderers is
still ongoing. The needed reforms, however, were not completed, and while
some improvements can be seen, the country has not succeeded in completely
eliminating discrimination against Christians. Only the Armenian and Greek
Orthodox denominations are officially recognized by the government.
Oppression of Christians is expected to continue, as the legal and social position
of Christian minorities is not improving.
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33. India
India’s staying in the same place in the WWL this year shows that conditions have not improved.
Disruptive violence against evangelists, pastors and church gatherings continues to occur on a monthly
basis, usually where the Christians live and work in remote or rural areas. Compiling from several
sources, a total of 109 incidents of anti-Christian violence were recorded in the reporting period, usually
where a pastor or evangelist would be attacked and badly beaten by a mob, and the authorities failed
to respond in an adequate fashion.
The main persecutors are mobs organized by extremist Hindu organizations who
peddle their exclusivist ideology, Hindutva, which believes that those belonging to
other religions have no place in India and should be forced to leave. Despite
being voted out of national power, the Bharatija Janata Party (BJP)—the political
party backed by Hindu extremists that pushes the Hindu extremist agenda—is in
power in states where two-thirds of the population live, and they continue to seek
to embed their extremist and revisionist version of their religion into the cultural
mainstream, with some success. “Hindu extremism going viral is the greatest
threat to the church today,” said a church leader in Delhi in August. Local
governments and police often side with those who commit the violence, resulting
in a virtual amnesty for thugs.
No large scale violence of the kind witnessed in Orissa in 2008 was seen in the reporting period, but
consequences continue. According to the national minorities commission reporting late in 2011, of the
827 criminal cases registered in Kandhamal, 512 cases have been formally charged, and 361 people in
65 cases have been convicted. But a total of 2,246 people have been acquitted due to lack of proper
evidence against them, so far. The remaining 321 cases are under trial.
Sporadic violence continues in the area and last Christmas (2010) some 200 extremists barged into a
Christmas day celebration in the village of Koyi Konda, beat up the worshippers, destroyed furniture,
and set fire to ten Christian homes and crop fields. In Maharashta state on May 2, Hindu extremists
stopped the construction of a church building and organized a boycott against the local Christians, even
to the extent of preventing their children attending the local school. Such incidents are almost
commonplace, and accompanied by the usual accusation that the Christians have been guilty of “forced
conversion” or “conversion by allurement/inducement”—an accusation that carries a legal penalty.
Persecution is drawn due to the amazing success Christianity is having among the low castes and
untouchables, or Dalits, which threatens the Hindu leaders. The Christian Church is growing
significantly. Officially Christians form 2.3% of the 1.2+ billion population, but there is credible
evidence to suggest the percentage may be higher than 5%, or over 70 million Christians. There is also
increasing tension between Muslims and Christians in Kerela, Kashmir and Assam, and Maoist insurgents
and Buddhist fundamentalists are threatening Christians in certain regions also, a minor but growing
trend.
Despite this, India remains a largely pluralistic country, and most Christian leaders find their main
problems deal with the grinding poverty levels. Forty percent of India’s population under 5 are
malnourished; a staggering 72% of Indian children never attend high school; there are 60 million child
laborers and still 600 million people do not have access to electricity. An Indian legislator, Dr Shashi
Tharoor, says India “is destined not be a superpower, but super-poor.”
While most Christians remain relatively free, many parts of the country remain key battlegrounds
between Hindu extremists and Christians. The extremists are especially regrouping in the rural areas,
setting up schools to raise up a new “Hindu Taleban,” and even educated leaders are seeking to make
Hinduism a much less tolerant religion. According to Rev Richard Howell, the General Secretary of the
Evangelical Fellowship of India, “...Christians in India continue to face the worst ever persecution in
India.” Christians are bracing for increasing persecution in the future.
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33. Burma/Myanmar
“The wind of change streams through the country!” In a nutshell, that is what
observers like the International Crisis Group say about Myanmar after its
transition to a new, semi-civilian government in March. Several positive signs
are observable since the new leadership has taken office, stirring hopes that
significant changes are indeed underway. Two of these signs are the
comeback into the political arena for Aung San Suu Kyi and the possible re-
admission of her party, the National League for Democracy, and the release of
hundreds of imprisoned political dissidents. But there are some dark shadows
on the bright prospects connected with the new government: the majority of
the so-called “political prisoners,” totaling at least two thousand, are still
imprisoned. Also the army’s war against ethnic rebels—most of whom are
Christians by name and religious affiliation—is at least as intense as before.
According to several reports, the Burmese Army repeatedly entered Christian
villages of the Kachin tribe, harassing and harming believers and sometimes
forcing them to serve as porters. In one case in August this year, the army
turned a Christian village into a full-fledged military outpost, including
fortifications, trenches and landmines. Though the believers sent a letter of
complaint to the authorities, nothing has been done to help the Christians by
the new government. This event fits into a long history of ethnic conflict with
the Kachin tribe, which lives in the northern border region to China and India.
As international observers stated, the ongoing reaction of the armed forces
doesn’t match the rhetoric of the new president speaking about
reconciliation.
On the other hand, a new Human Rights Commission was established in
September, with minorities duly represented on it. A renowned and respected
member of the Christian Kachin minority is serving as a member. As the
commission has only recently been created, it remains to be seen how
independently this commission will operate and what specific responsibilities
it will have. Nevertheless, its formation is an encouraging sign. Thus, in the
2012 World Watch List, Burma slightly decreased in points, but dropped
considerably in ranking due to changes within other countries. Because of this
considerable drop, it is necessary to stress that there are still no dramatic
visible changes to persecution within Burma.
Whether the winds of change will alter the predicament of the Christian
minority remains unclear. Pressure from society and the military appears to be
unchanged at this time. One Protestant church leader expressed concern,
saying the new measures could be a short-lived effort to get the rotating chair
of ASEAN (the association of South East Asian States) for 2014—which the
country obtained recently—while convincing the international community to
lift its sanctions.
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34. Tajikistan
This year, Tajikistan ranks a little lower than in 2011. Unfortunately, this has
nothing to do with an improvement in the situation for the Christian minority
in the country, but rather with the unusual situation of the split of Sudan which
boosted Northern Sudan up almost 20 places in the list. Though there have
been no substantial changes, the country dropped down two places on the list.
The new laws on religion distinguish between registered and unregistered
churches in a very strict way and are likely to cause more trouble for MBBs in
the future. It is not completely clear how the laws will be implemented, but
given the experiences of the believers until now, a further deterioration seems
possible.
In August 2011, authorities introduced a new “Parental Responsibility Law”
which holds parents fully responsible for the religious activities of their
children. This law singles out Tajikistan compared to the other Central Asian
states—less in practical, but rather on the legal and ideological level. It had
been difficult and cumbersome to conduct Sunday School activities or youth
camps in the past, but now the new law restricts all participation of persons
under age 18 in any religious activity, except funerals. Children can only receive
religious education in government-licensed institutes. More than half of
Tajikistan`s population is under age 18. Parents disobeying this law face heavy
fines and even prison sentences from between 5 and 8 years. The government
recently proved its determination in religious matters by stopping young
Muslims entering mosques for the Eid-al-Fitr prayers celebrating the end of
Ramadan in August 2011. Given this example, the small Christian minority
might face growing problems in the future.
Believers, especially MBBs, encounter attacks and harassment, and are
monitored and being pressurized into renouncing their Christian faith. A very
strong source of persecution is the family, but also society as a whole. As long
as the overall situation in the Central Asian region does not change, the
Christian minority will face constant and probably increasing restrictions on
their freedom.
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35. Tunisia
Tunisia is the country that started the movement of demonstrations, protests
and revolutions that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, later
known as the “Arab Spring.” It is also the country where the democratic
transition seems to have the greatest chance of success based on its politically
activist tradition and its generally well-educated population. Tunisia is known
as the most liberal country in the region, depending heavily on tourism. This
being said, the country faces important challenges. According to the
International Crisis Group (ICG), Tunisia “will need to balance the urge for
radical political change against the requirement of stability; integrate
Islamism into the new landscape; and, with international help, tackle deep
socio-economic problems.”
A broad coalition of the unemployed, lawyers, intellectuals, middle class
workers and trade unions demanding radical political change was behind the
Jasmine revolution of December 18, 2010, that led to the ousting of President
Ben Ali and Prime Minister Ghannouchi. In October 2011, the first election
was held. These elections were won by the Islamic Ennahda party, which has
already announced its intention to move towards the implementation of
sharia law and to transform Tunisia into an Islamic state.
Due to the high levels of polarization in Tunisian between the liberal, secularist
elite and the well-organized Islamists, it is unclear how much of the Islamic
agenda will be implemented, but the country has been affected by constant
turmoil in the aftermath of the revolution. Radical Muslims, most of them
exiled to France, are returning to the country and spreading their
fundamentalist messages. They are organizing violent demonstrations that the
weakened security services of the government find difficult to contain.
The extremely violent murder of Father Marek Rybinski, a Polish priest and
Salesian missionary, in February 2011 is a clear example of the increasing
religious violence in the country. Another example of religious violence is the
case of a local church leader who had to leave the country because of grave
threats against the lives of him and his family.
At the moment, although the constitution of Tunisia respects freedom of
religion and conversion from Islam is not prohibited, representatives of the
administration at every level often act differently. Foreign Christian residents
experience more inspections and suspect their phones to be tapped. Pastors of
expat churches are monitored, and importation of Christian books in the Arabic
language is obstructed. National churches cannot register—since independence
(1956) no new church has been granted official registration—and local
Christians are questioned and beaten once their conversion is known.
Reports from the field indicate that pressure on Christians, coming both from
the authorities and from the families of Muslim-background believers, has
increased since the Jasmine revolution. In this context, it is yet to be seen
whether the democratic transition will improve the situation of the small
Christian population in the country.
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36. Syria
Violence and protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad
have lasted for months, and the situation in the country can best be
described as chaotic. “The current stage [of Syria] is defined by an explosive
mix of heightened strategic stakes tying into a regional and wider
international competition on the one hand and emotionally charged
attitudes, communal polarization and political wishful thinking on the other,”
analyzes the International Crisis Group in its most recent brief on Syria (the
Nov. 24, 2011, brief on Syria by the International Crisis Group). Three central
messages can be distilled from this analysis: the social and political climate of
Syria is extremely explosive—the country is on the verge of civil war—and if
the current regime would collapse, whatever regime replaces it will not
necessarily be more democratic.
Syria has more than 20 million inhabitants and 1.9 million of them are
Christians. The Christian community lived in relatively peaceful circumstances
under the secular regime of President Bashar al-Assad. As long as Christians
did not disturb communal harmony or threaten the government, they were
tolerated and had freedom of worship. The recognized church of Syria is not
a hidden or secret church. It is respected in society, although every Christian
meeting is monitored by the secret police. However, these churches often
cannot and will not evangelize openly in Syria because of political pressure
and agreements with other religious leaders. Muslim background believers
face many problems, mostly from family and friends.
The government has to deal with extremist Islamic groups who are against
Christians and other minorities. Many extremist foreign fighters (mostly from
other Arabic countries) have been living and operating in Syria since March
2011, as a hegemony battle between the Iranian axis and the U.S.-Saudi/Gulf
Arab axis is being fought in the country. These foreign fighters have been
entering houses and threatening many Christians and other minority groups.
Anti-Christian sentiments are clearly on the increase amidst the current
violent and chaotic situation in the country.
As one of the minority religions, most Christians have been supportive of the
Alawite regime in the past, since that regime gave them relative peace and
rest. But nowadays most Christians are not supportive of any regime; they
just want a peaceful agreement and situation. But supporting the Alawite
regime in the past has made them vulnerable to attacks from the opposition.
They are also at risk for religious reasons, as fundamental Islamic groups
oppose any religion other than Islam in the country.
Since March mostly Sunni and Salafi protesters have been taking the streets
to demonstrate against the government. Frustrations of the majority religious
group have mounted after decades of domination by the minority Alawite
elites. Anti-Christian tensions first appeared in the form of threats. During
several demonstrations, Christians were forced to participate or were called
upon to immigrate to Lebanon; Alawites are threatened with death. The
situation has further worsened. Recently, Christian meeting places—mainly
churches—have been raided, resulting in physical damage. In one city,
Christians are afraid to leave their homes and do not attend church meetings
any more. Local Christians report that fundamentalist taxi drivers made a vow
that they will harm any unveiled female client. These women, mostly less
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orthodox Muslims and Christians, are being kidnapped, raped or even killed.
Some months ago, two Christian women were kidnapped in Damascus. One
managed to jump out of the driving car, but the other was taken and remains
missing. Amidst this threatening situation, Christians intend to celebrate
Christmas quietly, so they don’t draw too much attention to themselves.
Considering these developments, it is not amazing that the total of points for
Syria increased from 34.5 last year to 39 this year; putting it on place 36
(from 38).
What can be expected for the future of Christians in Syria? As long as the
Alawites remain united, the power continues to be in the hands of the Al
Assad clan. The Alawite will continue to control the military-intelligence
apparatus, and the Baath party will continue to hold monopoly on the
political system. Bashir’s regime seems to be quite firmly seated. In spite of
the current deplorable human rights situation in the country, Christians prefer
a continuation of a secular regime that doesn’t have much religious input
from Islam. Though it is hard to predict how events will unfold, a change of
government is expected to lead to a situation of anarchy and struggle for
power. This will likely result in an Islamist extremist take over—leading to a
worse situation for Christians and other minority groups. Should that
happen, Christians will either be isolated or driven from the country en
masse—a situation comparable to the one in Iraq.