In April 1996, Pope John Paul II attacked the intransigence of 'followers of other religions' who were persecuting Christians. He didn't specify Islam, but everyone know who he meant.
In his Easter message Urbi et Orbi, he said Christians in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe had "legitimate aspirations" to jobs, housing, social justice and religious freedom which were "hindered" by other faiths. The Times continued: 'The Pope recently condemned Islamic persecution of Christians in Sudan and will travel to Tunisia next weekend to plead for Islamic tolerance and Islamic-Christian dialogue.'
Nothing has really changed in almost 20 years. Indeed, the situation for Christians in these regions has actually become an awful lot worse.
The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, for example, Pope Tawadros II, has had to cancel many public events at St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, fearing attacks from Brotherhood supporters who blame the Copts for the fall of Morsi. Indeed, the Copts in Egypt, who make up around 10 per cent of the population, have it an awful lot worse than gays in Russia. But there is no rolling coverage of their plight by the BBC: their persecution and murder is only mentioned in passing. No marches are staged in London; there is no damning comment by David Cameron or President Obama, and the world is largely silent as their churches are torched and congregations slaughtered.
Pope Tawadros was not the only religious leader who demanded change in Egypt, but his church is bearing the brunt. The Copts are increasingly fearful of meeting to worship: one of their number was recently kidnapped and beheaded in the Sinai.
And in Syria, Christians are being executed in their homes or subject to the judgments of sharia courts established to pass sentences upon those who violate precepts of Wahhabi Islam. As the Sunni 'rebels' struggle for 'freedom', the country's 2.5 million Christians pray for the restoration of Alawite President Assad, their guardian and protector. Under him they had freedom to assemble, worship and speak. Indeed, Syria was for many the country of choice for Assyrian Christians fleeing the post-Saddam persecution. Their community is 2000 years old: today, they are verging on extinction.
But it is in Nigeria where the Islamist jihad rages most fiercely: according to a report on the Middle East Forum, 70 per cent of Christians killed around the world in 2012 were killed in the African nation. They list the most recent church Attacks: Egypt: According to El Watan News, three Christian brothers were shot dead at their home by automatic weapons a few weeks before two were set to have their weddings. The victims' family was earlier accused of trying to build a church on land they owned because they purchased building material to build a house on that land. The rumors about the building of a church spread during the Friday sermon at the mosque, following which 2,000 Muslims stormed the land and tried to destroy the house, car and tractor, resulting in the murder of the three Christian brothers.
Indonesia: Authorities demolished a church building with a bulldozer in West Java, even as Muslim bystanders cheered and denounced Christians as "infidels." According to Pastor Leonard Nababan, the government is "criminalising our religion." The congregation had gathered around the church in an effort to save it; so did Muslims, shouting, "They're infidels and they've built their church without permission," "Knock the church down now" and "Allahu Akbar."
Iraq: According to Fox News, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there were more than 300 Christian churches. Today, a decade after the jihad was unleashed on Christians and their churches, only 57 Christian churches remain in the nation. And "The churches that remain are frequent targets of Islamic extremists, who have driven nearly a million Christians out of the land..." An Iraqi-based human rights organization said that "The last 10 years have been the worst for Iraqi Christians because they bore witness to the biggest exodus and migration in the history of Iraq.... More than two-thirds [of Christians] have emigrated." One of the most dramatic cases of Christian persecution came in late October of 2010, when Al Qaeda members laid siege to Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad, killing 58 and wounding 78. According to an AP report "Iraq's Catholic Christians flocked to churches to celebrate Easter Sunday [in March], praying, singing and rejoicing in the resurrection of Christ behind high blast walls and tight security cordons... [emphasis added]."
Libya: A Coptic Christian church located in Benghazi was attacked by armed Muslims. The jihadis severely beat and shaved the beard and mustache of Father Paul, the priest of the church, as a sign of humiliation. They also beat the deacon and nine attendees. Meanwhile, because Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-led government had done little regarding the systematic abuse of Egyptian citizens in Libya, including the murder of one under torture, Copts demonstrated in front of the Libyan embassy in Cairo-prompting yet another attack on the Benghazi church, which was set on fire.
Pakistan: In response to one Christian man accused of blaspheming Islam's prophet thousands of Muslims attacked the Christian Joseph Colony of Lahore, burning two churches, one Catholic, the other a Seventh Day Adventist, as often happens in Pakistan in the context of collectively punishing Christians.
Sudan: According to Morning Star News, Khartoum's jihad continues to "rid the area of non-Arabs and Christianity": the Evangelical Church in the Nuba was "reduced ... to ashes" after an aerial bombardment. Days later, another bombing campaign left two dead and twelve injured, in the Christian-majority region. "These bombardments are major sources of fear among the people in South Kordofan," said a church leader.
Turkey: The 5th century Studios Monastery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is set to go from being a branch of the Hagia Sophia-Christianity's grandest cathedral, which was transformed into a mosque, after the Islamic conquest and is currently a museum-to being an active mosque. Many Turkish Muslims continue calling for the return of the Hagia Sophia itself to a mosque. Where is their Stephen Fry? Who will be their celebrity champion with millions of Twitter followers, to whom the mainstream media will fawn and David Cameron and Barack Obama instantly respond?