Arab Spring Proves Deadly for Mideast Christians

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The Arab Spring has proven deadly for Christians across the Middle East.

Many of the overthrown leaders in countries like Libya, Yemen and Egypt had been keeping radical Islamist groups in check.

Now, instead of democracy, these regions face greater oppression than ever as fundamentalist Muslims battle for power.

Many fear if the secular government is overthrown, non-Muslims will be targeted by the rebels and the Christian communities will be destroyed -- Should that be a concern? CBN News Senior International Reporter Gary Lane talks about this and more on CBN Newswatch, Sept. 12.

Syrian Christians have supported the Assad regime because it protected religious minorities over the years. Those days may be coming to an end.

"Many analysts believe that as you weaken the regime you actually strengthen radical Islamists who are fighting the regime (and) who will have their say and are having their say in the so-called liberated areas of Syria in the north and elsewhere, where they're imposing Islamic rule.

That's what happened in Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood took control of the government.    

And though the Egyptian military's intervention has weakened the Brotherhood, supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi still wreak havoc on Christians in the south. 

Shaak Sadek Shenouda, a security guard at an Anglican church, said hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members brandishing weapons surrounded the building.   

"The church was surrounded on all sides, and the people surrounding the church were armed," Shenouda said. "They couldn't be less than a thousand, totally surrounding the church, carrying weapons."          

In the Christian town of Dalga, Morsi supporters destroyed a monastery and its beautiful ancient doors and burned down other nearby churches.

"We still don't have a church to pray at," Christian activist Adel Shafiq said. "We are still trying to clean them up. We have four churches in the area, and we cannot pray in any of them."

In Dalga, the Muslim Brotherhood has begun imposing a tax on Christians. It's called a "jizya tax."

According to CBN contributing reporter, author and translator Raymond Ibrahim , jizya is the money or tribute "that conquered non-Muslims historically had to pay to their Islamic overlords 'with willing submission and while feeling themselves subdued' to safeguard their existence."

It's already started happening in Syria as well. When rebel forces took over the ancient Christian town of Maaloua, witnesses say they gave a Christian shop owner three options: pay a $70,000 jizya tax, convert or die.

Syrian rebels are currently fighting on the outskirts of Maaloula. Three Christian men fleeing the violence were reportedly executed by al Qaeda-linked rebels.

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Efrem Graham

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.