Today marks the fifth anniversary of the uproar in Tunisia that started a wave of protests, riots and government upheaval across the region that become known as the Arab Spring. What was initially received with optimism—that the regional turmoil would lead to more democratic societies and increased freedoms for residents—has actually produced a mixed bag of social changes. Unfortunately, the results for Christians in the regions have been overwhelmingly negative.
While the protestors who began the riots were young people fed up with economic inequality and the ruling elites, those who swooped into the power vacuum had very different agendas. Islamic extremists capitalized on the instability of the region to seize power. In countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the unprecedented violence held horrific consequences for Christians. Today, virtually all personal rights have been rescinded and Christians have been the targets of violence and murder. Women and girls of the region have become victims of human trafficking, forced marriages and sexual slavery.
“The prediction that the Arab Spring would lead to greater freedom for minority voices in Arab nations has, sadly, not panned out,” said Open Doors President and CEO David Curry. “To the contrary, the overall impact of the Arab Spring on Christians in the region has been catastrophic.”
According to Open Doors, which tracks Christian persecution, advocates for the persecuted, and provides practical and spiritual aid to those living under or fleeing from persecution, the full impact of the Arab Spring has yet to be felt. In Syria alone, 700,000 Christians have fled the nation. The Islamic State is executing a mission to remove or harm all Christians. Historic churches across the region have been burned or bombed. While the Western world focuses on the potential impact of an influx of refugees on their own nations, the situation in the region remains dire.
“The needs in the region are overwhelming,” said Curry. “Those who have fled the Islamic State and are now refugees need help at every level—food, shelter, health care, education, and emotional and physical encouragement. Those who remain in the country and under persecution need our prayers and advocacy.”
Open Doors has been on the ground in the Middle East and North Africa, working through local partners to provide help and hope to the displaced and persecuted. To find out more about how Americans can assist refugees and other victims of radicalized Islamic terrorism, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.
About Open Doors USA:
For 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.