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Christians In The Arab World: A Guide

Category : World Affairs

As Islamists come to power across much of the Middle East, Christians are facing growing persecution


Editors Note:

The author(s) of this article, unwittingly, did a great service to the cause of truth by helping to dispel the popular myth that all Arabs are Muslim.  The 10-12 million Arab Christian population figure revealed in the article is substantial and quite possibly, a conservative estimate.  To think that Islam is the religion practiced by all religious Arabs is to lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world are non-Arab.  So, kudos to the contributor(s) of this article for citing the 12 million Arab Christian population figure.  However, this article has a serious flaw, especially with regard to the false claims that allege an inherent hostile nature of Muslim peoples toward Christians.  Historically, the two groups have not always been on the best terms.  Be that as it may, the bigger issue which the article does not address are the shameful and hypocritical, Islamophobic  attitudes of America’s Christian Evangelical community, whose members are wont to blindly embrace the mythical “clash of civilizations” propaganda.  The aim of this anti-Islamic propaganda is to promote the notion that the two religions are diametrically opposed to each other and cannot coexist peacefully.  Though there has been a long history of periodic internecine conflict between Muslims and Christians, in recent years, (prior to post 911 US military intervention and occupation of Arab nations and the subsequent emergence of western funded groups like Al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood), instances of violent acts against Christians and their sacred institutions and their forced migrations from their land were extremely rare.   Today, however, some Muslims in name only and in open defiance of every cardinal principle of the Islamic faith, allow themselves to be used as cannon fodder in the service of Israel and Washington to commit heinous crimes against Christian and other sectarian minorities.   All such atrocities visited upon the innocents by the enemies of Islam are not only designed to destroy the delicate but promising relationship between Muslims and Christians but serve to foster the notion that Islam and Muslims are inherently evil.  Thus the staging and provocaturing of human rights violations  by criminal Muslim elements employed by their western intelligence handlers has been the primary method of hijacking the pure Islamic religion.  As Israel and Washington continue to pursue their fraudulent war on terror against Islam, their illegal and immoral genocidal assaults (through their proxy intellegence operatives) against the beleaguered Christian populations of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq elicit little, if any, sympathetic protests from the likes of Christian Evangelists Rick Warren, Rod Parsley, Joyce Meyer, John Hagee, Billy and Franklin Graham, James Dobson, T D Jakes and their large, delusional following. When it comes to the welfare of millions of Arab Christians victimized by Israeli-directed wars, these leaders betray their true, hypocritical, double-dealing nature by remaining conspicuously silent.  Arab Christians know that their greatest threat comes not from the traditional Muslim community but from the western backed Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda operatives whose aim is to prevent the growth and development of true Islam in the region.  What’s the best solution for fostering healthy Muslim-Christian relations in the Middle East? Eliminate the political mischief of Israel and its minions in America and Great Britain from the global arena and the world will witness the long-awaited peaceful coexistence between followers of the world’s two largest religions.



Egyptian Christians sit on the wall of the Coptic cathedral in Cairo



How many Christians live in the Middle East?

Between 10 million and 12 million. The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity and home to some of its oldest communities, but the Christian population has dropped dramatically over time, especially over the last decade. When Christianity was founded 2,000 years ago, it spread rapidly across the Roman Empire, into Egypt and westward. Mohammed began the Arab Muslim conquests in the 7th century, spreading Islam across the region, but he allowed Christians to continue practicing their religion. Christians remained a majority in parts of Iraq until the 14th century, when raids by Central Asian warlord Tamerlane decimated the community. The 20th century saw another precipitous drop, because of low birthrates and emigration among Christians. In 1900 Christians made up 25 percent of the population of the Middle East; by 2000 they were less than 5 percent. And then came the Iraq War.

What effect did that war have?

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, sectarian tensions long kept in check by Saddam Hussein erupted into civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. Christians — Aramaic-speaking Assyrians with an ancient lineage — were caught in the cross fire. In the decade since the invasion, more than half of Iraq’s Christians have fled to refugee camps in Syria or Jordan, reducing a prewar population of more than a million to some 400,000, mostly in the relatively tolerant enclave of Iraqi Kurdistan. In October 2010, just a few months after U.S. combat troops left, militants of al Qaida in Iraq laid bloody siege to Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad during Sunday evening mass, killing 58 people and wounding 78 more. “This tragic event sent a powerful message to Christians in Iraq — they are in grave danger and should leave the country,” said Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice. Christians in Arab Spring countries would soon feel the same way.

Why did the Arab Spring alarm Christians?

Many Arab countries were ruled by secular dictatorships that ruthlessly repressed Islamic extremists and democrats alike. The revolts that began in Tunisia in late 2010 spread to Egypt, Libya, and then Syria. Many Christians declined to support the democratic uprisings, at least at first, because they feared that the fall of a dictator would mean the rise of an Islamist state. Once the dictators fell, Christians were branded anti-revolutionary and suffered a backlash. Islamists won large majorities in most of the post-revolutionary elections, and in some places, notably Egypt, they rewrote the constitution to give Islam a more central role in government and law.

How are Egypt’s Christians treated?

Egypt is home to the Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, with some 8 million adherents. They consider themselves direct descendents of the ancient Egyptians, and still use the Coptic language, a derivative of ancient Egyptian, for religious services. Dictator Hosni Mubarak allied himself with the Coptic pope and protected the community in exchange for its support. Now Copts say the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Mursi is refusing to let them build churches and failing to crack down on a wave of violence against them. Islamic extremists bombed the Two Saints Coptic Church in Alexandria during the 2011 New Year’s mass, killing 23 people and strewing body parts around the church. Later that year, a huge mob of some 3,000 Muslims burned the St. George Church in Edfu and torched nearby Christian homes. When Christians protested outside the Maspero state TV center in Cairo in October 2011, soldiers brutally attacked protesters, killing 27. “Maspero completely traumatized the Coptic community,” said Heba Morayef, the director of Human Rights Watch in Egypt. “Feeling they were not protected by the law has created a climate of fear.” Fear has also taken hold in the war zones of Mali (see below) and Syria.

What is happening in Syria?

Some of the world’s oldest churches are in Syria, and until recently so were about 2.5 million Christians. For all its political repression, the country’s Baathist dictatorship did at least guarantee freedom of worship, so when the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began two years ago, most Christians sided with the regime or remained neutral. Now that Islamist extremists are joining the rebels in what has become a civil war, some 300,000 Syrian Christians have fled the country, and more will likely follow. “Everyone is afraid of these extremists,” said George Nashawati, head of an Orthodox charity in Damascus. “Look what happened in Iraq. It could happen here.”

How has the U.S. responded?

It has strongly condemned attacks on Christians, but it has not gone beyond rhetoric. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal government body, has recommended that the State Department list Egypt and Iraq as severe religious freedom violators, like Iran, which aggressively persecutes Christians, or Saudi Arabia, which bans all non-Islamic religions. But the White House has so far refused. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who recently traveled to Egypt, said Copts believe that the U.S. has made a bargain with the Muslim Brotherhood. “The feeling is that as long as the Brotherhood protects the United States’ interests in the region, it can act with impunity within its borders,” Wolf said.

Christians flee Mali

Mali had no Arab Spring uprising, but it has seen a fierce Islamist insurgency. In 2012 Salafist extremists linked to al Qaida took over in the north, where they destroyed churches along with Muslim shrines. Islamist rebels singled out the small Christian minority for torture and summary executions, and as many as 200,000 Christians from Mali fled to refugee camps in Algeria and Mauritania. “I deplore the departure of the Christian community,” said Timbuktu Mayor Ousmane Halle, a moderate Muslim, shortly after the Islamists invaded his town. “But I cannot guarantee their safety. And these are people that have lived side by side with us for centuries.”

by The Week Staff



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