Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world. In 2009 more than 165,000 Christians will have been killed because of their faith, most of them in Muslim countries.
And so the news, reported in The Jerusalem Post, that rights groups are meeting in Jerusalem to discuss the plight of the dwindling minorities under Muslim rule is to be welcomed. The conference will provide new statistics on the persecution of minorities in Muslim countries.
An Egyptian convert from Islam, Reverend Majed El Shafie, President of One Free World International (OFWI), will head a delegation of human rights activists, members of parliament from Canada and religious personalities. El Shafie said that between 200-300 million Christians are being persecuted in the world, 80 percent of whom lived in Muslim countries.
The plight of Jews in Arab countries must always be seen in the context of the plight of all non-Muslim minorities. The treatment of non-Muslims in Arab states has always been a telling barometer of the ill-health of Arab societies. The disease is called bigotry, oppression and ethnic cleansing. It's endemic, systemic and frequently metastisizes into intra-Muslim strife.
It began with the Jews, but it never ends with them. It's too late to save the Jews, 99 percent of whom have been 'ethnically cleansed' from the Arab world. (Largely transplanted to Israel, they enjoy freedom and full civil rights and no desire to return to their precarious existence in Arab countries).
As the saying goes, 'first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people': now that the Jews have gone, Assyrian Christians, Chaldeans, Copts, Palestinian Christians - together with Baha'is, Persian Zoroastrians and Mandaeans - they are all are in process of disappearing from their ancient homelands in the Middle East.
The state of the Mandaeans is saddest of all. This community does not even believe in defending itself. These millenarian followers of John the Baptist (whose communal plight, documented by Rudi Stettner and Magdeburger Joe here, here and here) are on the verge of extinction. They have been driven into exile, mainly in Australia, where there are no more than 30,000 souls.
If the disease is horrible, what is the cure? Minority rights can only safeguarded in a secure and democratic society governed by the rule of law. The West has done all too little to support democrats and liberal reformists in the Arab world and Iran. Thousands are locked up in jail simply for wishing to practise their religion. It's a tough road, but it's the only way forward.