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ICC Note: While this is not about persecution it does deal with the area where Christians are most at risk, the Middle East . In the end, it gives us reason to hope that the current period of Islamic militancy will fade and that Christians will be tolerarted.

The Middle East Situation Is Not Hopeless
Paul Johnson

For the full story, go to Forbes. Next to courage, patience is the most valuable of political virtues, and, like courage, it’s often in short supply. Nowhere is patience more needed than in the Middle East . Many tend to look at that area as a hopeless and confused muddle, producing nothing but bloodshed, and they blame President Bush for igniting the conflagration. Yet, in fact, long-term patterns of change are discernible there, but patience is needed to allow them to develop.

The Western occupation of Iraq has had two consequences–one intentional, the other less so. It transferred the location of Muslim extremist violence from Western cities such as New York and London to the Muslim heartland of the Arab world. But the violence in Iraq has had the unforeseen consequence of resurrecting, in acute form, the smoldering violence between the two chief branches of Islam, the Sunni and the Shia.

The civil- religious war between these two sects is now the dominant factor in the insurgency in Iraq and increasingly influences the political allegiances of the entire region.
By nature of their faith, Shiites are more militant, more inclined to violence. They are, therefore, more easily recruited to extremist sects and tend to take them over. They dominate Hezbollah, for instance. Shiite extremism also colors the aggressive international politics of Iran –its threats to “wipe out” Israel , as well as its determination to manufacture and use nuclear weapons.

The fact that the Shiites are gaining ground on the Sunnis in some areas has produced a reaction in such Sunni states as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, with a good deal of money and arms going to Sunni militant groups. The Iranians have responded by supplying money and arms to Shiite terrorist groups. And so the conflict intensifies. Nearly all the killing in Iraq is now carried out by rival Arab sectarian gangs for purposes that make sense only in terms of Islamic dogmas.

Age of Reason Coming

Some Western commentators, recognizing that the crisis in the Middle East is now assuming the nature of an internal religious war (like the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries), are sounding dolorous notes of alarm and prophesying endless slaughter and woe, with fighting spreading throughout the region and the West inevitably being dragged in. This reaction is needlessly pessimistic, even in the short term. In the long term I see a Muslim revulsion for religious and sectarian violence of all kinds, especially if the Shia leadership in Iran begins to threaten its Sunni enemies with its soon-to-be-acquired nuclear weapons.

It is worth remembering that the Thirty Years’ War between Catholics and Protestants that devastated central Europe in the mid-17th century was followed by a similar revulsion and the beginning of what later became known as the Age of Reason. Christian religious sects largely abandoned mutual violence, and a new tolerance and rationality took over. This in turn made possible the scientific and industrial revolutions and the spread of Western affluence.

Moderate Muslims have long bewailed the fact that Islam has largely missed the opportunities to grow rich and powerful that were so eagerly seized upon by the West. The chance for the long-delayed Muslim revolution of reason and tolerance, which will finally bring the billion followers of Muhammed into the modern world, is at hand. The situation in the Middle East may at present look confused and threatening, but forces are at work that promise hope and long-term stability. What we need now is patience.