Christians in Baghdad were hugging each other goodbye before leaving a Christmas Eve service when a car parked near the church exploded, creating a horrific scene. One policeman saw bodies of women, girls and men lying on the ground covered in blood while others were screaming and crying as they sought out their wounded relatives.
Those three separate Christmas day bombings in Iraq two months ago left 37 people dead.
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, a Vatican representative, told a House subcommittee on Capitol Hill last Tuesday that Arab Christians are the target of constant harassment and suffering due to their faith. No Christians are exempt, even the children who will carry scars of the atrocities for the rest of their lives.
"They've committed no crime. They are children", Chullikatt told the congressmen. "When they go to their schools, they are not even sure if they will come back safe and sound or even alive."
A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that 5.3 billion people live in countries with a high level of restrictions on religion. Pakistan had the highest level of hostilities involving religion, while Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religious practice.
Elliott Abrams, the U.S. Commissioner on International Religious Freedom, said while "there is some renewed hope among Christians in Egypt," there is still much more to be done.
Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian missionary organization from the UK, estimates 100 million Christians face persecution, particularly in Muslim-dominated countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Sources in Syria also report of kidnappings, shootings and beheadings of Christians who refused to convert to Islam.
This is not a new trend. Over the last century, Christians have been persecuted by various groups, and by atheistic states such as the USSR and North Korea. Jews, who make up less than one percent of the world's population, experienced religious persecution in 95 countries.
With hostilities against Christians in the world worsening, the president should send a strong message to stop the bloodshed. Sanctions against the offending nations would be a good place to start.
By Jim Zbick