On Sunday morning, hundreds of Coptic Christians woke up in Egypt, put on their best clothes and went to church to celebrate Palm Sunday.
As they faithfully settled into their seats and joyfully sang in the pews with branches of palm in hand, suicide bombers detonated themselves inside two separate churches.
The carnage was immediate. Dozens were killed just one week before Easter, one of Christianity’s most sacred holidays.
In the aftermath of the attack, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for a three-month state of emergency, with many hoping the government will provide more protection to believers, who are targets both at their houses of worship and inside their homes.
“The attack will not undermine the resolve and true will of the Egyptian people to counter the forces of evil, but will only harden their determination to move forward on their trajectory to realize security, stability and comprehensive development,” Sisi said in a statement.
This wasn’t an isolated event, although the attacks happening on a holiday amplified their impact. Coptic Christians have been the victims of terror attacks in Egypt 40 times in the past three years.
Just last month, in Sinai, a Christian man was hunted down by Islamic militants and killed inside of his home. His wife and children helplessly watched in horror.
According to Lisa Daftari’s The Foreign Desk, jihadists have posted “kill lists” online containing detailed information about Christian targets. Next door, in Libya, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has trotted out Christians to be beheaded for the entire world to see on YouTube.
Egypt is home to the largest Christian population in the Middle East, largely because they’ve been persecuted to brink of extinction everywhere else in the region.
According to Open Doors USA, Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world, and the oppression of those who believe in Jesus reaches nearly every corner of the globe.
The group says at least 215 million Christians around the world faced some level of persecution in 2016, and the trend is only getting worse. Each month, more than 300 Christians are killed for their faith and approximately 200 churches are destroyed.
“Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and employment, and even death are just a few examples of the persecution they experience on a daily basis,” Open Doors describes.
When I visited Israel for the first time, in 2014, on a trip sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters, I went to the Museum of The Bible with our group. There, we saw the most ancient and original versions of both the Hebrew and Christian bibles.
At the time, “jayvee” ISIS was marching across Iraq slaughtering Christians and destroying millennia-old religious sites along the way. Given the timing, the handwritten Bible from ninth century Mosul, carefully protected by a glass box, caught my eye and reminded me of the absolute devastation of Christianity in the region.
The world’s oldest Christian populations have been driven from their homes and have become nearly extinct in the Middle East. The persecution is so extreme the State Department officially declared last year that ISIS is carrying out genocide against Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.
Because the formal genocide label obligates governments to combat ongoing harm in a real and tangible way, the State Department and international community don’t often hand them out.
ISIS “is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions in what it says, what it believes, and what it does,” then-Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryEgypt’s death squads and America's deafening silence With help from US, transformative change in Iran is within reach Ellison comments on Obama criticized as 'a stupid thing to say' MORE said.
“Naming these crimes is important,” he continued. “But what is essential is to stop them.”
Last year the House voted unanimously to declare the actions of ISIS against Christians a genocide. European leaders, the pope and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump on presidency: 'I thought it would be easier' Trump threatens to scrap 'horrible' South Korea trade deal New science-fiction book set in future where Clinton won MORE also backed the official declaration.
And yet despite the declaration, little has been done by the United States or the United Nations to uphold the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Further, requirements to issue protections for the victims of genocide have gone unfulfilled.
The persecution of Christians isn’t isolated.
Instead, it’s rampant and expanding around the world. We’ve acknowledged the issue as a country through reports, data, media stories and an official genocide declaration. The international community has done the same. It’s far past time to protect those who are persecuted most for their faith.
Pavlich is the editor for Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.