Lebanon’s Christians concerned by Islamic revival; Christians under attack across Middle East

Lebanon’s Christian community is beginning to fear for its wellbeing amid signs that pro-democracy revolts could end up giving more power to less tolerant strands of Islam, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports

‘We saw what happened to the Christians in Iraq after Saddam (Hussein) was ousted: many of them fled the country and are now living as refugees in Lebanon and Syria,’ Bilal Haddad, a Christian banker who used to live in Syria, told dpa.

In Tunisia, where the so-called Arab Spring was born, an Islamic party banned under the rule of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has won the country’s first free election.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians and Muslims have continued to engage in violent clashes well after the ouster of Hosny Mubarak.

And in Libya, victorious anti-Moamer Gaddafi rebels have announced their support for Muslim Sharia Law.

‘All this seems to confirm that early critics of the Arab Spring revolutions may have been correct – that the hated dictators that were deposed may not have been as bad as they seemed to be and that some minorities who lived under their rule were protected then more than now,’ Christian analyst George Deeb told dpa. […]

Former Lebanese president Amin Gemayel, himself a Christian, wants his country to introduce a new bill to ensure that Christians ‘no longer remain victims.’

The revolts should abide by certain principles to assure the people that they are keen on reaching democracy and freedom without threatening any other sect living in the same country, he said.

May 2009 boradcast from Al Jazeera: In the birthplace of Christianity, will the Christian population soon disappear? Many studies report a slow but steady exodus of Christian communities from Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. Riz Khan discusses.

In a recent Jerusalem Post article titled, The forgotten Christians of the East, Caroline Glick wrote about the plight of Christians in the Middle East. She opened her article by writing about the recent violent attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt:

The 1,000 Christians represented the ancient Christian community of some 8 million whose presence in Egypt predates the establishment of Islam by several centuries. They gathered in Cairo to protest the recent burning of two churches by Islamic mobs and the rapid escalation of state-supported violent attacks on Christians by Muslim groups since the overthrow of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February.

In Iraq, the Iranian and Syrian-sponsored insurgency that followed the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in 2003 fomented a bloody jihad against Iraq’s Christian population. This month marks the anniversary of last year’s massacre of 58 Christian worshippers in a Catholic church in Baghdad. A decade ago there were 800,000 Christians in Iraq. Today there are 150,000.

Under the Shah of Iran, Iran’s Christians were more or less free to practice their religion.

Today, they are subject to the whims of Islamic overlords who know no law other than Islamic supremacism. […]

Palestinian Christians have similarly suffered under their popularly elected governments.

When the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, Christians made up 80 percent of Bethlehem’s population. Today they comprise less than 20% of the population.

Since Hamas “liberated” Gaza in 2007, the area’s ancient Christian minority has been under constant attack. With only 3,000 members, Gaza’s Christian community has seen its churches, convents, book stores and libraries burned by Hamas members and their allies. Its members have been killed and assaulted. While Hamas has pledged to protect the Christians of Gaza, no one has been arrested for anti-Christian violence.

Just AS the Jews of the Islamic world were forcibly removed from their ancient communities by the Arab rulers with the establishment of Israel in 1948, so Christians have been persecuted and driven out of their homes. Populist Islamic and Arab regimes have used Islamic religious supremacism and Arab racial chauvinism against Christians as rallying cries to their subjects. These calls have in turn led to the decimation of the Christian populations of the Arab and Islamic world.

For instance, at the time of Lebanese independence from France in 1946 the majority of Lebanese were Christians. Today less than 30% of Lebanese are Christians. In Turkey, the Christian population has dwindled from 2 million at the end of World War I to less than 100,000 today. In Syria, at the time of independence Christians made up nearly half of the population. Today 4% of Syrians are Christian. In Jordan half a century ago 18% of the population was Christian. Today 2% of Jordanians are Christian.

Christians are prohibited from practicing Christianity in Saudi Arabia.

Sadly for the Christians of the Islamic world, their cause is not being championed either by Western governments or by Western Christians.[…]

Aside from Evangelical Protestants, most Western churches are similarly uninterested in defending the rights of their co-religionists in the Islamic world. Most mainline Protestant churches, from the Anglican Church and its US and international branches to the Methodists, Baptists, Mennonite and other churches have organized no sustained efforts to protect or defend the rights of Christians in the Muslim world.

Instead, over the past decade these churches and their related international bodies have made repeated efforts to attack the only country in the Middle East in which the Christian population has increased in the past 60 years — Israel.

As for the Vatican, in the five years since Pope Benedict XVI laid down the gauntlet at his speech in Regensburg and challenged the Muslim world to act with reason and tolerance it its dealing with other religions, the Vatican has abandoned this principled stand. A true discourse of equals has been replaced by supplication to Islam in the name of ecumenical understanding. Last year Benedict hosted a Synod on Christians in the Middle East that made no mention of the persecution of Christians by Islamic and populist forces and regimes. Instead, Israel was singled out for criticism.

The Vatican’s outreach has extended to Iran where it sent a representative to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s faux counter terror conference. […]

It is unclear what either Western governments or Western churches think they are achieving by turning a blind eye to the persecution and decimation of Christian communities in the Muslim world. As Sunday’s events in Egypt and other daily anti-Christian attacks by Muslims against Christians throughout the region show, their behavior is not appeasing anyone. What is clear enough is that they shall reap what they sow.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday October 29, 2011.
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