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The Vanishing Christians of The Middle East

By Daniel Greenfield    

10/14/2010 Middle East, Vatican City (Eurasia Review) – The Synod of Bishops for the Middle East is meant to address the decline of Christians in the Muslim world. The reason for the decline is obvious. It is the willingness to discuss that reason which is at issue.

Christians in the Middle East are a minority in a Muslim region. Even the more moderate Muslim countries, such as Egypt, marginalize Christians and routinely deprive them of basic civil rights. Egypt is an American ally and nearly 10 percent of the country is Christian, yet that 10 percent live as second-class citizens, discriminated against and constantly subject to violence.

The rising tide of Islamization has made it more dangerous than ever to be a non-Muslim in a Muslim country, in ways that range from everyday discrimination to terrorist attacks. But the West is suffused by a narrative which insists that Islam is tolerant and promotes tolerance. Such a false narrative makes it extremely difficult to address or recognize the problem.

Meanwhile growing Muslim migration into Europe raises questions about the future of Christianity even in the West. If Christians are denied basic civil rights even in moderate Muslim countries, what will their fate be if France and Germany go the way of Byzantium? The fact that Christians do not generally enjoy equal rights in the Muslim world, suggests that they would also not enjoy such rights in Eurabia. The root of the problem lies in Sharia, Islamic law, which treats non-Muslims and women as second-class citizens.

Protecting Christians in the Muslim world requires working to replace laws based on Islamic jurisprudence, with laws based on objective secular standards that treat all religions equally. But this is likely to prove impossible. The governments of countries like Egypt are already under pressure by Islamists, who gain popular support by accusing them of being puppets of the West and disloyal to Islam. Applying pressure to the governments themselves cannot significantly shift the balance. Especially since the reign of those like Mubarak is endangered by the rise of the Islamists determined to overthrow the government and replace it with an Islamic state.

The real problem underlying it all is Islam. The question is what can be done about it.

The Synod so far includes the usual calls for dialogue with Muslims and Jews, the usual comments about the importance of the Peace Process, which would only accelerate the decline of Christians in the Middle East, and limited mentions of the dangers of Islamism. But if the Catholic Church hopes to preserve Christianity in the Middle East, it will have to take a far more active role than that. For the moment its policies are aimed at trying to preserve Christians as a minority in a Muslim Middle East. That is understandable, for the reasons laid out above, but also unsustainable.

Middle Eastern Christians are taking any chance they can get to leave for Europe and America where they will be able to enjoy freedom of religion, without persecution. The Vatican is concerned over this exodus, yet it is inevitable. The Jews fled the Muslim world in the same way. Few people will remain persecuted, if they can find another way out. The only way to reverse that exodus is to forcefully work against persecution and discrimination. Most Middle Eastern Christians have deep ties to the region, they do not want to leave. But creating a safe space for them will require more than just dialogue, but a demonstration that the Muslim world must respect the rights of Christians. Not that it should, because it’s the right thing to do.

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