Middle East: Can the region's Christians survive the 21st Century?
“As the 21st Century enters its second decade, two millennia of Christian presence in the Middle East might be eclipsed by the end of the century,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
By Paul Salem
1/6/2011 Middle East (Los Angeles Times) – As the 21st Century enters its second decade, two millennia of Christian presence in the Middle East might be eclipsed by the end of the century.
The new decade began in the Middle East with a car bomb that went off minutes after midnight outside an Egyptian church and left more than 20 people dead. This bombing came just a few weeks after radical Islamic gunmen killed dozens of people in a church in Iraq. The rise of Al Qaeda and the spread of radical Islamic movements have made the difficult situation of the Middle East’s Christian minorities far worse.
Comprising 20% of the region’s population at the beginning of the 20th Century, the remaining 10 to 12 million people make up only 5% of the population today. Though Christians played prominent roles in the cultural, nationalist, leftist and anti-colonial movements of earlier decades, they are excluded from the Islamist politics of recent years.
Since 2001, they have also borne some of the brunt of the confrontation between radical Islam and the (Christian) West.
In Iraq, almost half a million Christians have fled the country since the American-led invasion of 2003. With no safe haven or protective militia, the historic Christian communities of Iraq have been caught in Arab-Kurdish and Sunni-Shiite confrontations, as well as direct attacks from Al Qaeda, and now number less than 3% of the population. In Egypt, the Christian Coptic community, which makes up about 10% of the population, suffers from state discrimination and open hostility from radical Muslim movements.
In Sudan, the northern government has been at war with its largely Christian south for decades -- a war that might end in secession in the coming days. Christians in the Palestinian territories have dropped from 15% of the Arab population in 1950 to about 1% today, pushed out by the conditions of occupation and the rise of Hamas and militant Islam. In Syria, the country’s 10% Christian population has been protected under the Assad regime, although its numbers are also gradually dwindling.