Global Effects of the Persecution of Religious Minorities in the Middle East

04/08/2017 07:50 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2017

The speech, “Global Effects of the Persecution of Religious Minorities in the Middle East”, that I delivered at the 34th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on March 14, 2017:

Beheadings, draining of human blood, crucifixion, sexual slavery—these were some of the barbaric methods used to persecute religious minorities in the Middle East. And no, I am not referring to world history; sadly, this is our nightly news!

Religious and ethnic minorities are not protected by any government in the Middle East; they are at best tolerated, but mostly marginalized, discriminated against, abused, excluded, and threatened for political ends.

The Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish religious minority in Iraq and Syria were targeted by ISIS; thousands of Yazidi civilians were massacred—others were tortured, enslaved, or sold into sex slavery. United Nations investigators concluded that the Islamic State committed genocide and war crimes against the Yazidis in order to exterminate them; Amnesty International described how ISIS committed atrocities by systematically targeting Shia Muslims in Iraq, and destroying their shrines and places of worship.

ISIS and other radical Sunni groups in Syria who view the Druze much like they do the Shia—as “apostate" Muslims who should be executed—and have thus begun their executions, too.

But the most persecuted of religious minorities in the Middle East today are Christians. The Middle Eastern Christian communities—who trace the origins of their churches to the 1st Century Christians—are paying a heavy price for their faith; they are executed, raped, expropriated, forcibly converted to Islam, archeologically victimized, and erased by assimilation, to name just some of the egregious acts ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups have and are committing against them. Christians have endured persecution for many years in occupied Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and their numbers have been greatly reduced; less than four percent of the Christian population live in the Middle East today.

Over one million Syrian Christians have been displaced and dispersed all over the world; those who could not leave were sexually enslaved, imprisoned, tortured, and brutally executed by gunshot, rigged explosives, and crucifixion; their villages, which date back to the time of Jesus Christ, were destroyed along with ancient holy sites and their symbols of Christendom desecrated and destroyed by Islamic extremists.

In Egypt, Christian Copts are threatened daily, harassed, attacked, murdered, and their churches burnt and destroyed under the watchful, complacent eye of the international community.

The persecution of Christians in Iraq by the hands of radical Islamic militants is labeled extreme by international human rights organizations; Iraqi Christians who have lived there for two millennia are currently on the verge of extinction. Ninety percent of the country's Assyrian Christians have fled or died as a result of Al-Qaeda and ISIS; Assyrian Christians have been reduced to less than one percent of the general population.

In the Middle East, Christian converts from Islam suffer severe persecution by their families and the authorities and are frequently exposed to verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal to evangelize to Muslims; conversion to another religion is punishable by death. There are no church buildings at all, and house churches are raided; Christians live out their faith in complete secrecy, but risk arrest, imprisonment, torture, lashing, and deportation.

Even Lebanon, known as the prime sanctuary for Christians in the Middle East is threatened by Islamic extremists and terrorists. Seeing and witnessing what's happening to their Christian brothers and sisters in neighboring countries, the Lebanese Christians fear for their lives and future.

Troubled religious minorities—if they're lucky enough to flee with their lives—become refugees who not only face more hardship, but potentially raise economic, social, and security concerns for the countries they seek refuge in.

Intentional or not, the mainstream media—a weapon of mass deception—itself acts as global persecutor, responsible for downplaying—and failing to adequately report upon—Christian persecution, thus allowing for the expansion of extremism, extremist groups giving rise to tyrannical dictatorships, and tyrannical dictatorships in turn propagating religious intolerance.

But the biggest global impact that the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East has is fear—there is a reason that it is called terrorism. For those who are crucified can die only once, but merely hearing that other Christians have been martyred terrifies the living for life. Even those Christians who have for the moment survived the sword—or the nails of a cross—must live with the fear that they are next; hence, perpetual psychological and spiritual warfare.

In the end this fear is not limited to religious minorities in the Middle East or elsewhere around the globe—it poses a potential danger to anyone; I'm a minority, you're a minority, and you, and you, and you—we are all minorities. Because individuals are the smallest minority on Earth; those who violate the rights of any sort of individuals whatsoever are persecuting a minority. And to defend the rights of individuals is to be a defender of minorities.

It is proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations Human Rights Declaration on Minorities that:

Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (hereinafter referred to as persons belonging to minorities) have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, and to use their own language, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination.

Execution is the height of human rights violations, for what are the rights without the human? What does it say about our persecutors that their preferred method of execution is the way by which our Messiah was put to death? And what does that say about our Messiah?


In Corinthians it is written that "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed ... "
 Yet this exponential growth of religious persecution is unacceptable! Are we living in the Middle Ages? Or, better yet, ancient times? How can persecution occur on this scale and not cause a global uproar? How can the cries of martyrs not echo from one corner of the Earth to the other? How can we not drown in the ocean of blood shed by so many innocent lambs?

I'm not ashamed to be Christian—I'm ashamed to be human! Why would I want to deny Jesus Christ? It is us—the human race—with whom I am embarrassed to be associated with! Should I be ashamed to speak His name, or should you be ashamed to speak yours, and yours, and yours, and mine? I call not just for a revolution and not just for an evolution or even just for a resolution—I don't even know if we'd like the solution! But I know that when I look into the open eyes of dead Yazidis, I demand an end! When I see dead Druze and a pile of Shia stacked like pieces of dried wood, I demand an end! When I see Christians crucified side by side for believing that Jesus Christ had been crucified for them in just such a manner, I demand an end! I appeal to the conscience of the international community to act now to save humanity. This—ends—now!

Copyright © Lydia Canaan 2017

<em>Lydia Canaan is a singer-songwriter, poet, humanitarian, activist, and United Nations delegate. She is listed as the “fir
Lydia Canaan
Lydia Canaan is a singer-songwriter, poet, humanitarian, activist, and United Nations delegate. She is listed as the “first rock star of the Middle East” in the catalog of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Library and Archives.
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