Oliver North
WASHINGTON -- Easter morning sunrise services are part of a long tradition in Christianity. For millenniums, believers around the globe have gathered in the open at dawn on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and profess their faith. This year, there will be far fewer such assemblies in the Middle East and southwest Asia. For this we can thank what President Barack Obama calls the "Arab spring."

One of the rarely reported consequences of the "democracy movement" sweeping across the southern Mediterranean coast to the tip of the Arabian Peninsula and up the Persian Gulf has been an increasing threat to indigenous Christian communities -- some of which date back nearly 2,000 years. This Holy Week, the Obama administration was quick to profess "outrage" at the Gadhafi regime for killing and wounding journalists in Misrata, Libya. Yet neither the White House nor our NATO allies have condemned a spike in violence against Christians throughout the region.

In Egypt, members of the Muslim Brotherhood -- described as a "secular movement" by Western diplomats and intelligence officials -- are telling Coptic Christians to avoid public displays of their faith "for their own protection." Intimidated by murders, the firebombing of churches in Alexandria and Helwan, and the destruction of Christian homes and businesses by Islamist mobs, thousands of Copts are appealing for refugee status in Europe. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been ruling Egypt since the Feb. 11 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, has promised to "investigate all violations of religious freedom." Yet no one has been prosecuted for the violence.

In Syria, where the Apostle Paul planted hundreds of churches after being converted on the road to Damascus, Christians are being told by the Assad regime to "avoid any public gatherings under the guise of religious expression." Until recently, the Christian population of Syria -- estimated to be 12 percent of the population -- has been growing because of growing persecution in Iraq and Lebanon. Now Iranian propaganda encourages all "dhimmi" -- meaning non-Muslims living in any Islamic state -- "to submit or leave." For Coptic, Chaldean, Melkite, Assyrian, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Maronite Christians, this means one thing: Flee or die.

Though 45,000 U.S. troops remain in Mesopotamia, violence against Christians has been increasing since the American withdrawal began last year. A missionary in Basra -- who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals against his congregation -- said: "Two years ago, we baptized converts in the Tigris River on Easter Sunday. This year, the Feast of the Resurrection will be a very quiet affair."


Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.