Sunday, December 07, 2014

Mourn for the voiceless Christians of the Middle East

From The Australian, 4 Dec 2014, by Greg Sheridan:

Christians have been present in Iraq for almost 2,000 years. In 2003 they numbered approximately 800,000 and although suffering discrimination, the community enjoyed relative freedom and security under the Ba'ath Party rule.
Today their numbers have dwindled to a mere 200,000. The rest have fled their homeland, as they stand unprotected before the threats, kidnappings, forced marriages, and killings by terrorists, religious extremists and organized crime. Clergy have been murdered and churches bombed.

...The persecution and effective ethnic cleansing of Christians from the Middle East during the past century is one of the most profound and important historic changes we have witnessed. The mass killings of Turkish Armenians a century ago was its first big episode.

..The nonsensical Edward Said popularised the idea that the West dehumanises the “other” by making it exotic. Thus we are warned in every part of our culture not to demonise the other. That is quite right, so far as it goes. But this translates into a weird reflex in which any group at war with the West is presumed to be, at least in part, virtuously the “other”. We demonise ourselves, and we especially demonise anything which smacks of Western civilisation in any part of the world which was once colonised.

Middle East Christians suffer from this prejudice in the West. Israel does, too. 
As part of Western civilisation, it earns whole layers of extra hostility. Hating Israel is part of hating Western civilisation, the default position of the inheritors of the detritus of Marxism in successor ideologies like the Greens.

This is only a small part of ­Israel’s problems of course. Trad­itional Arab anti-Semitism is also a big part. But anti-Western bias among Western commentators also contributes to the shocking ­silence on the Middle East’s ­Christians.

Once there were large Christian and Jewish communities all over the Middle East. Almost all are gone. 

The two big remaining Christian communities are the Copts in Egypt and the Christians in Lebanon. The Copts are under perpetual siege. Their position is a little better, it seems, under the new military dictatorship than it was under the brief rule of the Muslim Brotherhood brought about by the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring was an unmitigated disaster for the Middle East’s Christians. 
In Syria, Bashar al-Assad was a dictator. But before the civil war broke out he was nowhere near as brutal as his father or numerous other Middle East dictators. Because he relied on a religious minority among his country’s Muslims — the Alawite sect of Islam — he made de facto accommodations with other minorities. Regimes based on minorities, while they may privilege their own minority in various ways, tend to operate a secular system to avoid being overwhelmed by the religious majority.

The Syrian civil war has been a catastrophe for Syria’s Christians. 
Many have been killed. Many have fled. When Syria is one day reconstructed it will be substantially without what was until recently its big Christian minority. That is not to say Christians have suffered more than others, just that the civil war has played its part in cleansing the Middle East of its remaining Christians.
.. Christians fared a little better in Iraq under Saddam Hussein than during the past 10 years. 
For the sad reality is that more political freedom in the Arab world has almost always meant more Islamism, and at the least a greater civic emphasis on Islam and greater discomfort for Christian minorities.

Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that rules Gaza, makes life extremely uncomfortable for the Christian minority. 

Bethlehem was once a Christian city. No more. 

Australia has benefited enormously from the immigration of Lebanese Christians but this is evidence of that community’s decline in Lebanon. 

In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to practise Christianity, even for US troops when they were stationed there to protect the kingdom. 

Hatred of Christians is common across the Middle East. It was hostility to Christian infidels on Saudi soil that first motivated Osama bin Laden.

Nobody is going to do anything to help Christians in the Middle East. We might at least mourn their tragic and terrible passing.

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