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Muslim violence against Christians in Iraq reached a new height in 2010 following the fire-bombing of churches in Baghdad and elsewhere throughout the country. It resulted in the flight of more than two-thirds of the ancient Iraqi Christian community. The Iraqi Christian leaders called off Christmas celebrations in 2010. A December 23, 2010 news item in The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that “Christians across Iraq have been living in fear since the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church on Oct. 31 as members of this Catholic congregation were celebrating Sunday Mass. Sixty-eight people were killed. Days later, Islamic insurgents bombed Christian homes and neighborhoods across the capital. Later, al-Qaida insurgents threatened more attacks on Iraq’s Christians, many of whom have fled their homes or the country since the church attack. A council representing Christian denominations across Iraq advised followers to cancel public celebrations of Christmas out of concern for their lives and to mourn the victims. Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq summed up the situation, “Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaida against Iraqi Christians. We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak.”
Historically there were Christian dominated enclaves in countries throughout the Middle East, such as in Lebanon. Today, the remaining 1.5 million Christians represent merely a third of the population and are threatened. Likewise in Bethlehem, where the Palestinian Authority now controls the city – the birthplace of Jesus – the Christians have been pushed out through intimidation and murder, resulting in a diminution from a majority to less than 15% of the city’s population. In an ironic twist, the Muslim Palestinian Authority has banned the sale of souvenir crosses to tourists…
The Washington based Christian Post headlined its December 24, 2007 issue with “Gaza Christians observe somber Christmas after murder” and the Financial Times (FT) of April 22, 2011 reported that in a square in Nazareth, right below the Basilica of the Annunciation, a Koranic verse warns that “whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” Yet, it is the spectre of losing in the here-and-now that most haunts the dwindling number of adherents to Christianity in the land of his birthplace…
Throughout the Middle East today, Christians have become endangered species. They are under threat from radical Islamists who have seized the opportunity, with mayhem in the Arab world, to settle the score with their Christian countrymen. With limited opportunities available to them in the Arab world, Christians now seek new lives elsewhere in Europe, as well as in North and South America. Those remaining are accused by Muslims of “complicity in the schemes of foreign predators.” The FT conclusion is that “The wave of revolution ripping through the region would uncover the submerged hard-wiring of sectarianism.”
The fate of Christians in the Middle East may not be the same as that of the Jews in Europe on the eve of World War II; they do have the option to leave while the Jews did not. However, what is rather similar is the abandonment of the Middle East Christians by the liberal/mainline Protestant churches, which have been putting their energies into divestment from Israel campaigns rather than using their resources to support their persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East. The lack of solidarity in the West by the churches, governments, and media to the plight of the Christian minorities is abominable.
The Arab Spring is becoming a nightmare for Christians in the Arab-Muslim world, but that is obviously not the focus of our secularized and, at times, anti-Christian mainstream western media.
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