In his latest book, Christian Persecution in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy, author George J. Marlin explores the fall of Christianity in its birthplace, documenting the suffering of those people who face death simply for being a Christian.
The most well-known persecution occurs at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). For over a year, ISIS has worked to destroy historical sites while persecuting those who do not submit to their sadistic interpretation of Islamic law. Mosul, Iraq, was home to one of the largest Christian communities in the world where they lived peacefully with Muslims. But ISIS ended that in June 2014 when they invaded the town and either murdered or expelled all the Christians.
Marlin, who runs the group Aid to the Church in Need, explores not only the damage done by the Islamic State but that committed by those who should be America’s allies. Devout Muslim Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rules NATO-member Turkey with an iron fist as president. His actions since he became prime minister point to a desire to re-establish the Ottoman Empire. His anti-Semitic views make headlines, but hardly anyone touches on the downfall of Christianity in the country during his tenure.
The Christian population of Turkey is evaporating rapidly. The nation, a NATO member since 1952, has experienced a reduction in its Christian population from 20 percent 100 years ago to only 0.2 percent today. Istanbul was once known as Constantinople, founded by Roman Emperor Constantine in 324. He made it the capital of Rome before it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. They made it their capital until the empire collapsed after World War I. Modern-day Turkey officially renamed it Istanbul in 1923.
“You have to remember that the AKP–the Justice and Development Party in Turkey–is a spinoff of the Muslim Brotherhood,” described Jonathan Schanzer, from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). “This is an organization that is founded on Islamist principles. Mr. Erdogan sees himself as an Islamist and a Turk first and foremost. And so he’s synthesizing Turkish nationalism with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
In May, a large rally in Istanbul demanded the government change the historic Hagia Sophia church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, into a mosque. The idea to change the church into a mosque begun to gain momentum in April after Pope Francis recognized the slaying of 1.5 million Armenians in the 20th century as a genocide. Liam Deacon at Breitbart London chronicled the history of Hagia Sophia.
“Our real problem remains our basic property, we have no ownership papers and have never had any,” said Bishop Louis Pelatre, the Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul, in Marlin’s book. “This is not an easy situation. I am not recognized as a bishop, I can open a bank account in my own name but not in the name of my diocese.”
Marlin then writes about Lebanon, which is “recognized as the nation in the Middle East with the most religious freedom.” But recent years left Christian leaders in fear that radical Muslims will do away with those freedoms. Christians made up 84 percent of the Lebanese population in 1926, but now only 30 percent live in the country.
Iraqi Christians fled to Lebanon in 2007 only to be met with discrimination and threats of death. Marlin explained that 31 people were arrested for a plot to attack Christian neighborhoods in Zahle, which boasts a Christian population of 20,000. The Pope visited in 2010, but the visit did not diminish Christian persecution. Only a month later, Muslims attacked numerous Christian communities, killing 10 people and wounding over 100.
Even more Christians and Muslims filed into Lebanon after ISIS established their caliphate in Syria. Rifaat Nasrallah leads a Christian militia that protects the Lebanese border. He said if it was not for his militia, the cities on the border “would be another Mosul.” Marlin also noted the fight with ISIS forced these Christian militias to team with Hezbollah, who consider Syrian President Bashar al-Assd an ally. One of Nasrallah’s deputies said the two groups “share a common enemy” since ISIS wants to destroy both. The militias “have received training and supplies from Hezbollah.”
Marlin’s book did an excellent job documenting Christian persecution in the Middle East, especially countries largely ignored by the mainstream media. He provided a voice to those religious leaders who live through the persecutions on a daily basis.
“That Christian presence is now at risk of disappearing — for good. The loss would be immeasurable,” said Marlin. “A Middle East without Christians — holy sites not surrounded by a living Christian community — would turn the region into a museum of Christianity, maintained by foreign clergy for the benefit of foreign pilgrims. It would become a ‘Church of stones,’ in the ominous words of Pope Paul VI.”
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.