ICC Note: Across the broader Middle East, from Morocco to Pakistan, Christians have repeatedly come under attack in recent months. The tragedy of these attacks extends beyond just the individuals and families directly attacked, but extends to the societies involved and the region overall. The attacks are threatening to drive Christians from areas that have been the homeland of Christianity for two millennia. Some are now beginning to consider what is actually at stake if Christians are cleansed from the region. What would be lost if Christians were erased from the map in these countries?
By Ken Starr
11/10/2013 Egypt/Syria (Dallas News) - Christians in the broader Middle East, it seems, are in the crosshairs. In September, two Taliban suicide bombers rushed All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, as worshippers exited. One exploded his bomb outside, one inside. Eighty-two people were slaughtered. In March, two churches and about 100 Christian homes were ransacked in Lahore.
Today, millions of Christians and other religious minorities are facing vile persecution. Many Christians are struggling to escape from the countries where their ancestors have lived for two millennia. The human tragedy unfolding in these countries is profoundly disturbing. But the tragedy extends beyond the suffering of individuals and families.
Next month in Rome, Georgetown University, in partnership with Baylor University, will showcase the findings of a two-year study on Christianity and freedom. Three dozen scholars will assemble to discuss what Christians have contributed to freedom and prosperity in their own countries, and, implicitly, what will be lost if those countries are emptied of their Christian populations.
The countries include Egypt, where the holy family fled when Jesus was a baby. Many Christians now are exiting Egypt in the wake of the badly misnamed “Arab Spring.” In August alone, scores of churches were torched, some of them dating to the fifth century.
They include Syria, Paul’s destination when he was called by Jesus. Today, many Syrian Christians have fled, fearing the prospects of an Islamist regime. One village, Maaloula, is one of the last places on Earth where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken. In September, it was overrun by Islamist terrorists.
In Iraq, Christians once enjoyed a fragile stability under Saddam Hussein, but since his fall they have been targets of fierce persecution. The Christian presence in Iraq, as elsewhere, is rapidly diminishing.
Christian communities have helped shape the history and culture of the Middle East. Indeed, Christian minorities the world over have contributed significantly to the societies in which they live. In China, Vietnam, India, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and throughout Africa, Christian schools have dramatically increased literacy. Christian development agencies and NGOs reduce poverty, provide clean water, build hospitals and clinics, and teach young mothers how to care for their children.
Perhaps most importantly, and most ironically, Christians have brought to the Middle East and elsewhere the ideas and institutions of freedom. While Christianity has its own mixed history, it has in the modern era championed equality under the law, economic opportunity and religious freedom for all people. If Middle Eastern countries continue to repress and expel their Christian populations, the fading prospect of stable, free societies will virtually disappear.
A final tragedy is this. The United States does not appear to see the national security implications of a Christian-free zone in the Middle East. The current administration fears that it will alienate Muslim populations if it is seen to protect Christians. In fact, to be consistent with our values, the United States must support religious freedom for everyone, not just Christians.