Oliver North

Lebanon -- once a center of inter-confessional harmony among Muslims, Christians and Jews -- is now a vassal state of the ayatollahs ruling Tehran. Hezbollah proxies of the Iranian regime have "removed" all vestiges of Christianity from southern Lebanon. Churches, some dating back to the Pauline era, have been torched, knocked down or converted into mosques and "cultural centers." With the symbol of Christianity -- the cross of the Good Friday Crucifixion -- removed, the structures are emblazoned with Islamist graffiti and "Allah has no son" in Arabic.

In Palestinian-controlled Gaza, Hamas has issued a call for "Islamic purity" and ordered Christian missionaries to leave. Authorities even have closed desperately needed medical clinics and food and clothing distribution centers run by Christian organizations, because they are "fronts for Zionist spies."

Since "popular uprisings" began in Tunisia late last year, an invigorated anti-Easter movement has spread well beyond North Africa and the Middle East. Though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted a growing lack of religious freedom during a speech last week in Germany, the apathy and indifference of so-called human rights groups to a global explosion in Christian persecution is stunning.

In Pakistan, "blasphemy" -- defined as the public profession of any faith but Islam -- is a crime punishable by death. It's the same in Sudan, which imposes a like sentence on anyone who converts from Islam or proselytizes Christianity. And few Western leaders dare object to Saudi Arabia's confiscation of Bibles or the royal ban on Christian houses of worship and public displays of religious symbols -- other than Islam's crescent moon and star.

This week, authorities in Beijing arrested hundreds of Christians and shut down underground "house churches" to "maintain order." On Thursday, two bombs were discovered at a church in Jakarta, Indonesia. They were timed to detonate during Good Friday services, when worshippers would gather to observe Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Christians being persecuted is nothing new. Jesus Christ's original followers were put to the sword, stoned, burned to death or crucified. And now the possibility that Christianity could be driven from the part of the world where it all began is a dismal prospect.

There is, however, some good news in the midst of this travail at Eastertide. First, there is a place in the Mideast where Christians are welcome and where the faith flourishes: Israel.

Even more important is the message of Paul, the man who planted all those Mideast churches. He wrote, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." That's what Easter is all about.

Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of "American Heroes in Special Operations." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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.