Millions of people around the world identified with Charlie Hebdo by adopting the slogan 'Je Suis Charlie', shorthand for the basic human right to free expression.
The message is obvious. If you do it to Charlie you do it to me echoing, consciously or otherwise, the biblical message: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Take the 'I' out of JE SUIS (I am) and you have JESUS but this is not an option in all countries.
The World Watch List ranks the 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. here are the top 5:
1. North Korea - Population: 25 million (300,000 Christians); Main Religion: Atheism/traditional beliefs; Persecution Level: Extreme; Source of persecution: Dictatorial paranoia.
2. Somalia - Population: 11 million (A few hundred Christians); Main Religion: Islam; Persecution Level: Extreme; Source of persecution: Islamic extremism, tribal antagonism.
3. Iraq - Population: 35.7 million (thousands of Christians); Main Religion: Islam; Persecution Level: Extreme; Source of persecution: Islamic extremism.
4. Syria - Population: 22 million (1.1 million Christians); Main Religion: Islam; Persecution Level: Extreme; Source of persecution: Islamic extremism.
5. Afghanistan - Population: 32 million (thousands of Christians); Main Religion: Islam; Persecution Level: Extreme; Source of persecution: Islamic extremism.
The pattern is clear. Leaving aside dictatorial paranoia, Islamic extremism is the main cause of persecution. Two of the countries many would probably rank as the leaders in religious persecution are ranked only 8th and 12th:
Pakistan: "Pakistan’s Christians are caught in the crossfire between Islamic militant organizations and mobs that violently target Christians, and an Islamizing culture on the other hand that results in Christians being isolated from the rest of the population. The notorious blasphemy laws continue to have devastating consequences for minorities, including Christians. A Pakistani mob beat and burned to death a Christian couple in November for alleged blasphemy charges. Women and girls are experiencing violence every day; especially those from minority groups who are vulnerable and easy targets for rape, sexual abuse and kidnapping". In full.
Saudi Arabia: "The desert kingdom is defined by Wahhabism, a purist and strict interpretation of Islam. It is forbidden to openly practice other religions. Apostasy – conversion to another religion – is punishable by death. Radical Islamic breeding ground is widely present in the kingdom and Saudi funding of terrorism abroad is the main source of Sunni terrorism in the world. Most Christians are expats from Asia or Africa. Converts to Christianity from Islam face the risk of being killed or abused by their own families. House churches are often raided by the religious police". In full.
This is the price paid by one blogger who tried to exercise free speech in the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: "Raif Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1m riyals or about $266,600".
The sight of French President Francois Hollande and other world leaders leading French citizens in a massive rally for unity was an encouraging sight, not least for Muslim minorities in non-Islamic states. But the major problem to be addressed is the position in countries where freedom is replaced by Sharia and human rights replaced by oppressive laws such as the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and the religious repression seen in Saudi Arabia where "twenty percent of the national budget is allocated to the worldwide expansion of Islam, and the country's enormous oil wealth has financed global Islamic expansion with billions of dollars".