Global Event | Christmas

Christmas for the Vulnerable Christians of the World

Source: Al Jazeera YouTube

One of the most important days in the Christian holiday canon, Christmas is celebrated by the devout, the lapsed, and the unbelieving alike as a time of gift-giving, decorating, and shared cheer. However, many of the worlds Christians, minorities in their communities, continue to face persecution as religious-extremist, nationalist, and other reactionary forces gain footholds around the world. From Indonesia to Egypt, religiously diverse societies have experienced increased sectarian tensions as parallel forces—anti-Christian sentiment and Islamophobia—have disrupted what was once stable co-existence. This roundup takes a look at recent developments in the plight faced by some of the most vulnerable Christians around the world.

Syrian Christians

The deteriorating situation in Syria between pro- and anti-government forces has left the country’s Christian population caught in the crossfire: though long dependent on the government for support and protection, they have been caught in the crossfire between governmental war crimes, anti-government absolutism, and the apocalyptic nihilism of the Islamic State. Many Syrian Christians have fled communities under attack and the prospect of life (or often death) under Islamic State forces, leaving many Western nations in a political conundrum as loud anti-immigrant voices deny refuge to coreligionists.

Iraqi Christians

Recent gains by Shiite militia and other anti-Islamic State forces have received widespread international attention, but Iraqi Christians in the region have found little to return to in the wake of protracted violence. Since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the number of Christians in Iraq has decreased from 1.5 million to less than 400,000, many having fled metastasizing violence in the country or having fallen to it themselves.

Egyptian Christians

Although always subject to insecurity as a minority comprising 10% of the Egyptian population, Egyptian Copts have seen threats against their communities increase in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring. Beyond violence, Copts have long been marginalized from power, with few holding positions of authority and textbooks excluding the contributions of the community to the country.

Palestinian Christians

An under-recognized presence in the clamorous international discourse on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Palestinian Christians continue to keep the holy city of Bethlehem, among other sites.

Indonesian Christians

The controversial blasphemy trial of Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese, Christian governor has sparked tensions between Muslims and Christians in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Hardliners have been emboldened to pressure Christians to avoid public celebrations of Christmas in more conservative regions of the country, which has left members of the Christian community worried that their coexistence with the Muslim majority in a country known for its pluralist, multicultural society could be under threat.

Chinese Christians

The Chinese Community Party has begun cracking down on public displays of religiosity, including a campaign targeting crosses displayed atop the churches of China’s substantial Christian minority. The divide between officially and unofficially recognized churches has grown, and the growing numbers of congregants in unofficial “house churches” have fueled China’s fears of foreign “intrusions” into Chinese culture.

Burmese Christians

Although to a lesser degree than Muslims in the country, Christians in Myanmar have been subject to marginalization amidst the upsurge in reactionary nationalist forces, largely driven by conservative Buddhist groups. More than 100,000 have been displaced amidst ongoing persecution.

Bruneian Christians

An absolute Islamic monarchy, Brunei is home to a Christian community that has recently seen its rights to public religious expression curtailed. The sultan ruled that Christmas should be celebrated privately among Christian communities and that Muslims were prohibited from participating in public expressions of the holiday’s celebration.

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