Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
ICC Note: The library of an Orthodox priest in Lebanon was set aflame following accusations of blasphemy. The fire destroyed some 50,000 books and manuscripts in the city of Tripoli, Lebanon. What is most troubling about this kind of act is that it is not that uncommon. Across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, a charge of blasphemy can quickly lead to horrific acts whether the death of the accused or the destruction of thousands …
Category: Countries , Lebanon , Middle East , News
Thursday, September 5th, 2013
The two plus year civil war in Syria has created one of the largest refugee crises in recent years. More than two million Syrians have fled their homeland to escape the violence. This has put a massive strain on neighboring countries and has created security concerns. In Lebanon, there are an estimated 700,000 refugees. The strain on the economy has been noticeable as prices have increased, supplies are short on basic food staples. There are also security concerns. There have been numerous militant extremists who have flooded to the region to join the fight against Bashar al-Assad. These individuals are a threat to the security of both the refugees and the host country, especially to those who are not supportive of their extremist views of Islam such as the significant Christian population in Lebanon.
Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Syria’s civil war has ramifications that stretch beyond just its own borders. It has become a battleground for political groups battling for influence in the region. Lebanon to Syria’s south has been increasingly impacted by the shifting demographics of the Syrian conflict. During this conflict the Christian population has been forced out of their homeland due to threats of bombings, shootings, and kidnappings.
Saturday, October 27th, 2012
The lack of freedom and security experienced by religious minorities in the Middle East today raises concerns that many will "be tempted to emigrate" to Europe or the United States, "despite their great love of their homeland," said Bishop Maroun Nasser Gemayel. Bishop Gemayel believes that Syria is next where Christians—caught in a civil war between opposition forces and the army—fear for their country’s future.
Friday, July 12th, 2013
Syria’s civil war has had tragic consequences for all Syrians and the death toll now numbers more than 100,000. Within this conflict the country’s Christian population has been targeted repeatedly. As this article highlights it is not only by foreign Islamic militants but also by fellow Syrians who fear that Christians may remain loyal to current President Bashar al-Assad. The violence and kidnappings they have experienced has led to a massive migration out of Syria into neighboring countries.
Friday, September 21st, 2012
More than 200 Christians from Iraq traveled to Lebanon to see Pope Benedict XVI. "The pope's visit… serves as a reminder for us Iraqi Christians that there is still hope," one Christian told Agence France-Presse. Before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were roughly 1.4 million Christians in the country. Today, only 450,000 remain. According to the Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation in Iraq, 900 Christians were killed and 200 were kidnapped between 2003 to May 2012. “Iraq's Christians have suffered deeply, and we need to remain faithful to God and our religion in order to make the country better," said Father Jamal Zako from Erbil.
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
A recent report highlights that in the midst of rising persecution more and more people want access to the scriptures. The distribution of Bibles has continued to increase around the world. In places like Syria, Iraq, and throughout North Africa access to the Bible is crucial to sustaining the church in the midst of the harsh realities of persecution they are suffering.
Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
Christian leaders gathered this weekend in an emergency meeting to discuss survival strategies in the face of advancing Islamist attacks across the region in the aftermath of the "Arab Spring" uprisings. The group issued a statement which called upon regional governments to take responsibility for protecting their respective religious minorities, and for all Christians in the region to stand in unity. The group is now in the process of preparing a plan of action in response to the emergency situation.
Monday, October 14th, 2013
In the coming year there will be major decisions forthcoming on a number of issues from Syria and Egypt to Iran and Afghanistan. While many of these decisions are viewed as largely political, the impact of these decisions will have serious implications for the Christian community in these countries. The church must be actively engaged in the political process to ensure that their basic rights are protected, otherwise the exodus of Christians from the region will continue.
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
“It is chaos, it is violence, it is blood, it is death. Life has been paralyzed. We have lost everything,” a Syrian Church leader said. After two years of violence life has been put on hold and there is a feeling of hopelessness about the future. By some estimates 25% of the Christians have had to leave their homes because of the violence. Along with the urgent needs of material supplies is the need for hope to continue on with their lives.
Monday, October 7th, 2013
One of the most overlooked factors in understanding the political and cultural dynamics of the Middle East is the presence of the regions Christian communities. As the region has been in a state of upheaval for the past two years it has left many of these Eastern Christians wondering what future is left for them in the lands where they have lived for 2000 years. The reasons they are being driven out are numerous. They range from the very real threats of violence that has seen thousands killed as a result of their faith, to more subtle but just as damaging legal and political repression that clearly communicates they are no longer welcome as full members of society.
Monday, September 23rd, 2013
There have been numerous incidents of violence across the Muslim world, from Pakistan, to Egypt, Kenya, and Syria. With the direct targeting and persecution of Christians overlapping with global political issues like Syria, some world leaders are starting to pay attention to the fact that Christian persecution is a sign of massive human rights abuse.
Friday, September 6th, 2013
At a gathering of Christian leaders from around the Middle East region many of them shared their concerns about military intervention from the United States or other Western countries. They see the massive humanitarian need and the personal crisis that has affected people and feel that the USA does not have any plan to assist them. They want the world to speak out for peace and justice and to work to ending the violence, not escalating it.
Monday, August 12th, 2013
In the midst of the civil war in Syria that has taken more than 100,000 lives, Syria’s 2 million Christians are in an extremely dangerous position. Under President al-Assad the situation had been stable, who himself from a minority had not wanted to lose the support of minorities. The opposition to Assad had begun as a movement for greater freedoms and rights but has been largely co-opted by militant Islamist groups including ties to radical extremists. This has led to a purging of non-Sunni’s from many rebel controlled areas. For the Christians it has left them with nowhere to turn, and even those who have fled Syria still are in fear of targeting because they are Christians.
Monday, June 10th, 2013
The period known as the “Arab Spring” has seen the peoples of a number of countries throughout the Middle East take a more active and engaged role in the politics of their own nations. While there are some elements of this that are extremely positive the outcomes for some minority groups have been tragic and the indicators for the future are not positive. Continually raising the issue of the importance of all parties of society being represented in the politic system is of extreme importance.
Monday, December 17th, 2012
“A hundred years ago it's thought that around a fifth of the population of the Middle East was Christian... These days the figure is probably closer to 5%,” Kevin Connolly writes for BBC. This article explores the reasons for the mass exodus of Christians from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and throughout the Middle East.
Sunday, December 16th, 2012
Terry Waite returned to the place he was held hostage in Lebanon to bring attention to the plight of Middle Eastern Christians that have fled persecution in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. “The situation there is tragic,” Waite wrote in The Guardian. “There are now elements of the Arab spring that have been hijacked by Islamic extremists who want to impose sharia law and banish Syrian Christians.”
Monday, March 10th, 2014
A group of Syrian Nuns that had been detained by a Syrian jihadist group for more than three months has now been released. The nuns who were taken from a monastery in Maaloula Syria were released as part of a prisoner exchange with the Syrian government releasing 150 women that were being held. The nuns were released at a Lebanese border town and have since been escorted back to the Syrian capital of Damascus. The situation regarding the nuns had served to highlight the dire conditions confronting the country’s Christian population.
Sunday, March 9th, 2014
The fate of Christian leaders kidnapped in Syria remains unknown. A group of nuns taken from the city of Ma’aloula are no longer in contact with a group that has been negotiating for their release. There has also been no word on the status of Orthodox bishops who have also been kidnapped in Syria. These are just a few of the many Christians who have been explicitly targeted in the middle of the nearly three-year-old war.
Saturday, March 1st, 2014
For Syrian Christians forced to flee the conflict in Syria, Turkey has become a safe haven for many. The intriguing thing is that for many the flight from Syria to Turkey has been a retracing of the steps their ancestors took nearly 100 years ago. Eastern Turkey was once the homeland of hundreds of thousands of Syriac and Armenian Christians. Many of these groups were forced south into modern day Syria. As they have returned back some of them are now living in the same villages that they grew up hearing spoken about by their grandparents.
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Reports continue to stream out of Syria indicating that the situation for the country’s Christians appears to be getting worse. Residents from a well-known Christian city report that the jihadist rebels are moving into positions surrounding the town and seem poised to move on the city of Saidnaya in the coming days. The city which is home to 5 monasteries and dozens of churches has been struggling to continue “life as usual” but the prospect of an invasion by jihadist groups makes those hopes seem dim.
Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
The following interview with Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University, provides important insight into why Christians play such an important role in the Middle East and how the promotion of religious freedom and the protection of Christians specifically is in the best interests of all peoples in the Middle East, and even in the West as well.
Thursday, December 26th, 2013
In Syria, Christians are facing threats from both sides as they are falling victim not only to the violence that has claimed more than 110,000 lives during the past three years but also from kidnapping and attacks specifically because of their religious identity.
Wednesday, December 25th, 2013
Slowly across the Western world we are seeing more and more political and thought leaders awake to the reality of Christian persecution, and the massive scale on which it is taking place across the Middle East. The horrific abuses have been largely ignored for a number of reasons from “political correctness,” fear of “doing God” in public, or taking sides in some sort of “clash of civilizations.” None of these, even if they were accurate, are justification for allowing massive crimes against humanity to take place with near total impunity and with little outcry from those countries who claim to be the defenders of human rights.
Monday, December 23rd, 2013
As Christmas nears, the time of remembrance highlights what has been lost for many Syrian Christians. Speaking from Cairo where they have taken refuge, Syrian Christians highlight the pain that they feel when they see the violence that has spread across their country and the blood that has been spilled in that land. The reality of what they left behind makes it difficult to imagine celebrating the traditional festivities surrounding the commemoration of Jesus’ birth. They remain committed to praying for the peace, healing, and salvation of Syria.
Thursday, December 19th, 2013
As the intensity of the violence towards Christians escalates in Syria, many are beginning to recognize the impact of religious identity on the conflict. "It is believed that religious wars are a matter of the past. But they have become a matter of the past only for those western politicians that are not paying attention to them,” Eugeniy Satanovsky said. This is highlighted by the rising power extremists groups who have specifically declared their agenda is to establish Islamic law in Syria.
Saturday, November 30th, 2013
The influx of Islamic militants who have flooded Syria with the stated goal of establishing an Islamic state has driven many of the country’s Christians to flee the country. In the midst of the ongoing civil war there have been multiple incidents of Christians being targeted across Syria as a result of their faith and unwillingness to conform to the extremist agenda of these fighters.
Saturday, November 23rd, 2013
Egyptian political leaders are attempting to lay the groundwork for how the country’s constitution and parliamentary system will be organized going forward. There has been talk of implementing a quota to ensure representation of Christians and women in the parliament. Some Christian leaders have discouraged this plan as it encourages sectarian divisions that are bad for the country as a whole, and Christians in particular.
Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Following a meeting with the leaders of churches across the Middle East Pope Francis spoke out calling for the church to support the continued existence of the church in areas that have increasingly become hostile to Christians. “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” Pope Francis said. This further highlights the work that is necessary to support the church and to address the political and cultural dynamics that are driving their exodus and in some cases martyrdom.
Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
In a recent interview Patriarch Laham highlights how the violence in Syria has progressively come to target Christians more frequently. The two plus year war in Syria has created destruction across the country, but as Patriarch Laham says that especially since August they have documented nearly daily large scale attacks falling on those neighborhoods housing churches and other Christian institutions, including schools. He wonders whether Western states have lost the ability to see and comprehend the heinousness of the war and the destruction it is causing.