Jews, Christians Help Spread Word about Persecution

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Tens of thousands of Christians are fleeing the Middle East because of persecution. Yet this modern day exodus is getting little attention in the West.

Now, a Jewish group is teaming up with Christians to help spread the word about this persecution. 

Almost 200 million Christians are targeted each year, especially in the birthplace of their faith, the Middle East. Iraq is just one example. 

"Since 2003, there has been a systematic attack launched against the Christian community and other minorities in Iraq," Juliana Taimoorazy, with the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, said.

"Unfortunately the mainstream media and many churches really don't talk about persecution of their brothers and sisters in Christ," she added.

Taimoorazy is an Assyrian Christian. She had to be smuggled out of her home country because of religious persecution.

She said since the end of Saddam Hussein's reign, Islamic persecution has forced about two-thirds of Iraq's Christians to flee.

The persecurtion escalated from attacks on churches to forcing Christians to choose between converting to Islam or paying a protection tax.
 
"And the next step for the Islamic extremists were to go in and attack families -- kill children, kidnap women, impregnating them, torturing men, beheading them. Then they started attacking clergy members," Taimoorazy said.

Author Raymond Ibrahim said anti-Christian violence is widespread across the region.

"It's kind of amazing to me to see that what's happening to Christians by Islamic forces…Christian worshippers are in a church and it gets attacked and it gets burned, things like that," he said.

Ibrahim was born in the United States to Egyptian Coptic Christian parents. He said the media ignores Christian persecution because it contradicts the media's perception of Islam.

"If this idea gets out that Islam is intolerant to the other, then it kind of puts the struggle with Israel in a different light," Ibrahim explained.

Taimoorazy blamed the lack of attention on an anti-Christian sentiment in the American media and throughout the world.

"This is something they don't want to talk about because then they would be perceived as pro-Christian. But it's a human rights issue," she said.

Alan Schneider, with the B'nai B'rith World Center, a well-known Jewish organization in Jerusalem, agreed.

"This is a major human rights issue in the world that is not getting the attention it deserves in the West," he said.

Schneider recently brought experts like Ibrahim and Taimoorazy together with Israelis to discuss the present and future of Christians in the Middle East.

Taimoorazy saidIsraelis were more open to her message than many Christians.

"People came and said we want to volunteer for your organization because this is not only a Christian issue, a humanitarian issue, it's a Judeo-Christian problem," she said.

The group's conclusion: Americans and Europeans should take time to find out what's happening to Christians in the Middle East and see what they can do to help.

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