A widely disseminated video recently appeared of an Islamic Sunni cleric in Syria inciting Muslim schoolboys, most of whom appear to be between the ages of five-twelve, to hate and kill Christians and others.
According to a report in Arabic which has gone viral (scroll down it for video), among other things, the sheikh calls on the children to “slaughter all Christians for being infidels” and boasted that “the Christians of Syria are under continuous attack and their churches and monasteries subject to violence.”
In the video, the sheikh first talks of Islam’s egalitarianism — that it does not consider the race, nationality, or language of people, only whether they have submitted to Islam by becoming Muslims or not, adding, “because the entire world is for Allah.”
He then tells the children that “Islam uplifts the Muslims and debases the non-Muslims,” while raising one hand, symbolic of Islam, and lowering the other, symbolic of all non-Islam, to drive the point home to his young audience.
When radical Islamists tore down a cross and hoisted a black flag above a church in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah last week, their action underscored the increasingly hostile environment for the country’s Christians.
Although Syria is majority Sunni Muslim, it is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, home to Christians, Druze, and Shiite-offshoot Alawites and Ismailis. But the country’s conflict, now in its third year, is threatening that tapestry.
While the primary front in the war has pitted Sunni against Shiite, Christians are increasingly caught in the line of fire. The perception that they support the government – which is in many cases true – has long made them a target of rebel groups. Now, Christians say radical Islamist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an affiliate of al-Qaeda, are determined to drive them from their homes.
“The Christian community in Syria is stuck between two fires,” said Nadim Nassar, a Syrian from Latakia who is director of the Awareness Foundation, an interfaith charity based in Britain. “One fire is a corrupt regime, and everybody agrees there needs to be a change. And on the other hand, there’s a fragmented and diverse opposition on the ground who can’t control jihadist forces coming from outside the country.”
By Shahira Amin, Special to CNN
(CNN)– It’s Orthodox Christmas, but the mood in Cairo’s working-class Shobra district this year is somber. There aren’t many colorful festivities and decorations that traditionally mark Eastern Christmas celebrations in this predominantly Christian neighborhood, and Shobra’s Coptic Christian residents say they are in no mood to celebrate.
Growing concerns about the rights of Egypt’s Copts, who make up an estimated 12% of the population, have dampened the mood of Christians, overshadowing this year’s celebrations.
“Many of my friends and relatives have left the country,” said 27-year-old Beshoy Ragheb. “I would leave, too, if I had a place to go.”
Threats by Muslim extremists against Coptic Christians in the past year have forced scores of Christian families to flee their homes in Dahshur and the Egyptian border town of Rafah. Meanwhile, extremist attacks on Christian churches and brutal attacks by security and military forces on Christian protesters demanding the protection of their churches in October 2011 remain vivid in the memories of many of Egypt’s Christians.