Friday, 9 March 2012

The plight of Christians in the Middle East

The Wall Street Journal is carrying a rather sobering opinion piece by Michael Osen, the State of Israel's ambassador to the United States, about the persecutions faced by Middle Eastern Christians.

"The church in Bethlehem had survived more than 1,000 years, through wars and conquests, but its future now seemed in jeopardy. Spray-painted all over its ancient stone walls were the Arabic letters for Hamas. The year was 1994 and the city was about to pass from Israeli to Palestinian control. I was meeting with the church's clergy as an Israeli government adviser on inter-religious affairs. They were despondent but too frightened to file a complaint. The same Hamas thugs who had desecrated their sanctuary were liable to take their lives.The trauma of those priests is now commonplace among Middle Eastern Christians. Their share of the region's population has plunged from 20% a century ago to less than 5% today and falling. In Egypt, 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after beatings and massacres by Muslim extremist mobs. Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee. Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death. Saudi Arabia outlaws private Christian prayer.... Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled. Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden. In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors. Rami Ayad, owner of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, was murdered, his store reduced to ash. This is the same Hamas with which the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank recently signed a unity pact."

The full article can be read here.


  1. I think every word in the post is correct and urgent, but it is difficult to tease out what is new.. from how Christian-Islamic relations have always been. Are we merely seeing retribution for the brutal Christian Crusades which started in 1096 AD and never really ended (the retribution, I mean, not the crusades)?

    My feeling is that modern oppression of Christians in Muslim lands is more political than religious.

    And I would say the same thing about the majority Sunni relationships with the minority but powerful Shia/Alawites in Syria, for example. Even though they are all Muslims.

  2. You may want to check out the complete article.

    Also quite interesting are the number of responses to the ambassador which take exception to many of his claims.

    While Christians living in Israel may be considered Christian or Arab or both, they are not Jews and hence are second-class citizens. Christians who live in the territories are considered to be Arab aliens.

    Israel's security wall has made making a living almost impossible for a large number of Arabs, some of them Christian.


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