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Christians Tempted to Emigrate as Lebanon Grows Increasingly ‘Islamized’

Christians tempted to emigrate as Lebanon grows increasingly 'Islamized'

ICC Note

“Christians used to make up 50 percent of the nation’s population; now experts think the Christians are probably not exceeding 34 percent, which is worrying,”

By Josie Ensor

09/28/2009 Lebanon (The Daily Star)-Christians are tempted to flee Lebanon as the country becomes increasingly “Islamized,” according to the founder of the Center for Arab Christian Research and Documentation (CEDRAC). One-third of the nation’s Christian population has left since the beginning of the 1975-90 Civil War, and a recent surge in emigration means Christians now make up just 34 percent of Lebanon’s population, Father Samir Khalil, a Jesuit teacher at Beirut’s St. Joseph University’s CEDRAC department, told Vatican Radio last week.

“Christians used to make up 50 percent of the nation’s population; now experts think the Christians are probably not exceeding 34 percent, which is worrying,” Khalil said in the radio interview during a visit to The Holy See.

The Beirut-based researcher expressed concern that Christians in the Arab world are moving abroad to places with higher Christian populations, such as America , Europe and Australia , which is increasing the Muslim majority in countries like Lebanon .

“The same is happening [all over] the Middle East, and this is certainly a very tragic situation, and it will have great consequences in the future,” Father Khalil warned last week on the Vatican Radio station, adding that Christians must stay in the Middle East to keep numbers up.

Large numbers of Lebanese Christians are leaving as they feel their traditional influence in their country is weakening, while an increasing number of crucial political positions are going to Muslims.

In reference to Islamic extremism, Khalil claimed the power of the influential Christian minority to counterbalance it was waning, saying: “ Lebanon has always been a bastion of religious tolerance, but now it is moving toward the model of Islamization seen in Iraq and Egypt .”

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI this week called a special Synod of Bishops to discuss the challenges facing the church in the Middle East .

Over 70,000 Christians have fled since the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hizbullah, many fearing more conflict between their southern neighbor and the Shiite group.

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