International Law

Middle East Christians, Human Rights and Dhimmitude

The Christian population has been plummeting across the Middle East in recent years. The primary cause of the decline is radical Islamic persecution of non-Muslims, from church burnings to outright murder simply for the "crime" of being Christian.

Approximately 150,000 Christians are murdered globally each year because of their faith, with many of these murders taking place in the Middle East. For the persecutors, dhimmitude by these "infidels" is no longer enough. Christians must convert to Islam, leave, or die.

Yet the persecution of Christians is not limited to that inflicted by Islamicists. Christians who live in Israel are dealt with as second class citizens.

This discrimination may have more to do with Israeli Christians being primarily Arab by ethnicity rather than because of their religious beliefs. Whatever the motivation, the Christian Israeli population is also dwindling.

Near Bethlehem, the Israeli government is planning to extend a wall to protect two Jewish settlements that the Palestinians contend are illegal. The government contends that the wall is necessary for security purposes.

Based upon its current path, the wall will evict dozens of Arab Christian families from their lands. In addition, the wall will divide a Christian monastery and convent from each other.

Both Islamic and Jewish governments must respect the rights of religious minorities. Treating Christians as dhimmis or worse is unacceptable behavior that violates fundamental human rights. 

The international community should apply diplomatic and economic pressure on all Middle Eastern countries - Muslim and Jewish - to protect the rights of Christians and other religious minorities who live there. The rule of law must protect rather than persecute diverse religious beliefs.

Recommended Reading

Bethlehem nuns in West Bank barrier battle, BBC News (May 2, 2012)

Christianity at the Crossroads, (May 4, 2012)

Where Have All The Christians Gone?, (May 9, 2012)

UK Event to Draw Attention to a New Generation of Martyrs, (May 4, 2012)

Why Are Christians Really Leaving Bethlehem?, (May 8, 2012)


  • According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom 2012 report, ten of the sixteen 2012 Countries of Particular Concern are Muslim-majority nations: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. However, the persecution of Christians departs from the teachings and traditions of Islam. Prophet Muhammad (PBuH) and his successors guaranteed Christians the right to worship and promised the protection of Christians until the “Last Day.” In his Holy Testament to St. Catherine, he declared: I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion … Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate … Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world). These words were adhered to and practiced by Muhammad (PBuH) and his followers. In The Chronicle of Seert, a Nestorian Christian recognized this fact so clearly that he hailed the triumph of Muslim conquerors in the 7th century because the protection and freedoms granted by the Muslims were far greater than the former Zoroastrian oppressors. He wrote: “The Arabs treated [the Nestorian Christians] with generosity and by the grace of God (may He be exalted) prosperity reigned and the hearts of Christians rejoiced at the ascendancy of the Arabs. May God affirm and make it triumphant!” Similarly, the Islamic Caliph Omar ibn Khattab, upon capturing Jerusalem, concluded a Covenant with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, which guaranteed the rights of Christians to continue to enjoy religious freedom under Muslim rule. Muslim leaders must address the persecution of Christians in Muslims lands with due regard to the history and traditions of Islam and the Qur’an, which declares that Christians are the “nearest in friendship to the [Muslims]” (Surah 5:82).