Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video issued by the Israeli government that he hopes for "greater security and freedom" for Christians in the Middle East. The Islamic State has killed untold numbers of Christians with beheadings, crucifixions, and wanton warfare while seeking to dominate Syria and Iraq. Its collaborators elsewhere in the Islamic world have emulated its tactics, even while some Muslims have rejected it for supposed deviations from the teachings of Islam.
Netanyahu said in his video, "I am proud to say that Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East, maybe the only country in the Middle East, where Christians are truly free to practice their faith openly, freely to celebrate Christmas and other Christian holidays." Netanyahu continued, "The state of Israel is a beacon of liberty in a Middle East plagued by oppression and extremism," adding, "It is my fervent hope, my fervent prayer, that 2016 is marked by greater security and freedom for all Christians across the Middle East."
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama mentioned the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Speaking in his Christmas message, Obama said "In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent" He added, "This silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL," he said, using another term for the Islamic terrorist group.
In Israel, despite frictions between Jewish nationalists and Christians over issues such as land tenure, Christians are free to express their faith. Pilgrimages and processions are encouraged during Christmastide and Easter. Israeli police and military provide security to Christians at significant sites such as the Holy Sepulchre, while the government has investigated and prosecuted Jewish extremists who have attacked Christians and their churches.
However, even in the most secularized Muslim country - Turkey - where Christians are allowed their places of worship, Christians are regarded as second-class citizens and suffer restrictions. In Saudi Arabia, no Christian churches are allowed, whatsoever, and Christians can suffer severe penalties for any activities regarded as prosyletism. Muslim converts to Christianity face the death penalty through the traditional Muslim method: beheading by the sword.