Egyptian Catholic spokesman Father Rafic Greische told Vatican Radio in December 2010 that “Muslim fundamentalists… want the Christians to evacuate from the Middle East and leave. And this is what is happening every day.” From Egypt to Nigeria, from Iraq to Pakistan, Christians in majority-Muslim countries face a grimmer present and a more uncertain future than ever, as Islamic jihadists step up their efforts to Islamize, to drive them out of their lands—or to kill them outright.
Moreover, this religious bigotry, hatred, and violence are legitimized by holy writ: the Qur’an and other Islamic texts and teachings. Nowhere else does religious bigotry have such bloody consequences. And yet nowhere else does such religious bigotry take place almost entirely without comment, let alone condemnation, from the human rights community or even from Muslim leaders.
Islamic authorities in Egypt and elsewhere are generally disinclined to discuss the plight of Christians there. When Pope Benedict XVI spoke out in January 2011 against the persecution of Christians in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the world’s most prestigious Sunni Muslim institution, reacted angrily, breaking off dialogue with the Vatican and accusing the pope of interference in internal Egyptian affairs. In a statement, Al-Azhar denounced the pontiff’s “repeated negative references to Islam and his claims that Muslims persecute those living among them in the Middle East.” When Pope Francis succeeded Benedict, Al-Azhar and other Muslim authorities expressed hopes that he would repair relations between Muslims and Christians by not repeating the mistakes of his predecessor – including speaking out about the Muslim persecution of Christians.