Middle East Christians keep wary eye on Arab Spring

ICC Note:

“The Arab Spring uprisings that toppled secular dictatorships have unleashed long-suppressed freedoms that have allowed Islamic parties to gain a share of political power they have been denied for decades. Their rise is creating near-panic among ancient Christian communities that dot the Muslim world and predate Islam by centuries,” The Washington Post reports.

By Oren Dorell

2/1/2012 Egypt (Washington Post) – From her home, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as visitors outside come to look upon the spot where Egypt’s Coptic Christians believe Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus found refuge after fleeing Bethlehem.

Once crowded with Christians, Cairo’s Coptic quarter where she lives with her husband, Mounir, and two children is now home to fewer than 50 Christian families.

“We know many Christians have left,” said Mounir Ramsis, speaking not only about this quarter but about all of Egypt. “But we love this country and will stay until death.”

The Arab Spring uprisings that toppled secular dictatorships have unleashed long-suppressed freedoms that have allowed Islamic parties to gain a share of political power they have been denied for decades. Their rise is creating near-panic among ancient Christian communities that dot the Muslim world and predate Islam by centuries.

In Tunisia, where the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted last year after 32 years in power, the dominant political party, Ennahda, has worried some of Tunis’ 22,000 Catholics by vowing to tilt the country’s yet-to-be-written constitution toward Shariah, or Islamic law.

In Libya, Christians are uneasy as the powerful head of the Tripoli Military Council, Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who once led an Islamic militia with links to al-Qaida, has said he plans to run for office in elections scheduled for April.

In Afghanistan, no new building permits have been issued for churches, and the last church open to the public was demolished over the summer. In Iraq, the Christian community has decreased by two-thirds since 2003 amid bombings of churches and assassinations of priests.

And Christians in Syria, where Muslims have risen up against President Bashar Assad, have been subjected to murder, rape and kidnappings in Damascus and rebellious towns, according to Christian rights groups, including Open Doors, which helps Christians facing persecution.

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