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ICC Note: “The Last Supper: The Plight of Christian in Arab Lands” was recently published in the U.S by Klaus Wivel. The book explains the persecution Christian face in and on their journey out of Arab countries. This is an interview with the author regarding some important aspects of his writing.

06/15/2016 Middle East (AINA): Klaus Wivel is a reporter writing for the Danish weekly Weekendavisen. His book about Middle Eastern Christians, The Last Supper: The Plight of Christians in Arab Lands, was just published in the United States. Wivel sat down with me recently to discuss his book, the Christian community in the Middle East, how those Christians are received in Europe, and what the future holds.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD: What drew you to the story of Middle East Christians?

KLAUS WIVEL: I started writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1998. At the time of the Second Intifada, 2000-2005, it became increasingly evident that Palestinian Christians felt vulnerable. They had been an instrumental part of the Palestinian national movement, but the character of Palestinian nationalism shifted in a more Islamic direction during those years. The Christians told me that they felt like strangers in their own land, and began to leave by the thousands. I was told by Christians in Bethlehem that if the emigration kept going at this pace, no Christians would be left in a couple of decades, besides a few monks and custodians maintaining the holy sites. Being only two percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, this assessment wasn’t an exaggeration.

Around 2006 even more catastrophic news made its way from Iraq where it was stated that up to two thirds of the Christian population–among the oldest in the world–had left the country. Several churches were bombed, priests were killed, Christians were kidnapped by the thousands, and whole areas of the major cities Baghdad and Mosul were being evicted.

Then in 2011, following the Arab Spring and the ouster of then-president Hosni Mubarak, the same stories were heard in Egypt. Christians here, too, were under attack and with even less protection from the security forces than they’d received under Mubarak. I decided at that point to travel to the area to investigate the story myself.

TWS: How does the Sunni-Shiite conflict affect Middle East Christians?

WIVEL: In Iraq, Christians were caught in the middle during the war. It’s worth remembering that the Christians in Iraq where not a part of the civil war and had no armed militias. They were left more or less unprotected. Both Shiites and Sunnis would kill or kidnap Christians, although it’s unclear whether their crimes had anything to do with religion or sectarian strife or if it was simply local thugs using the shield of militant jihad to get rich from hostage taking.

In Syria it’s a little different. Here the Christians have been allied with the Assad regime, made up of Alawites, who constitute a heterodox branch of Shia Islam. For that reason Sunnis have attacked Christians who are seen as Assad loyalists.

In Lebanon the Christians are divided against themselves. One part has been aligned with the Sunnis since the pro-democracy March 14 movement ousted the Syrians from Lebanon following the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. The other part of the Lebanese Christian community, led by Michel Aoun, is siding with Hezbollah.

TWS: What do the Middle East Christians want from the Christians of the West, especially North America and Europe?

WIVEL: Attention. Many of the Christians I met were baffled by the fact that the Christian West was not up in arms about this. But it’s a delicate matter. Some Christians think–especially among the clergy–that if Western governments state the case of the persecution of the Christians too forcefully, they will really place the Christians in the poisonous position of being accused of being lackeys of the West.

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