The situation of the Christian Community In the Middle East
by Nick Bishop
The Middle East has been the home of Christianity for almost 2000 years, but today the faith is going through a major crisis. Christians across the region now represent 3 – 4% of the entire population compared to 20% a century ago.
Christians have been leaving in their droves to find a better life in western countries. Though there are many reasons why this has been occurring, all have been detrimental to the lives of Christians in some way or other.
The rise of Islamic extremism, the Iraq wars and the Arab Spring have all been obvious contributing factors for the exodus of Christians from the Middle East. But the lack of employment opportunities and educational opportunities for some Muslims has led to minorities like Christians being blamed for their plight.
This has led to the discrimination and persecution of Christian communities. A UN report says the greatest risk for Christian communities are those living in Pakistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations has passed little if any resolutions, to protect Christians and other minorities. In situations where religious persecution is occurring, especially against Christians, the UN has been described as a toothless body.
The Sunni-Shia conflict across the Middle East has not helped the Christian community either.
The conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims did occur occasionally in Iraq before the 2003 US/UK invasion but after that, it spiralled out of control. Iran is the leading nation in the region for the Shia and Saudi Arabia for the Sunni. Obviously, this has had a knock-on effect on the Christian community leading to more Christians fleeing the discrimination and persecution.
The Palestinian/Israeli crisis which never seems to get nearer to a solution is also a contributor to Christians leaving the Middle East. The West Bank once contained many more Christians among the Palestinians than it does today. Thankfully a residue of that population still hangs on.
So the question is what can be done? As a world body, the UN should pass more resolutions and not just empty resolutions.
Resolutions with ‘teeth’. For example, the ability to impose sanctions and (in limited cases) to launch military action (eg. the case of when the US intervened and airlifted Yazidi people to safety from ISIS) is paramount to ensuring the UN protect the rights of oppressed Christians, among other groups.
Some have wisely suggested that US aid to many of these countries be conditional on improving the rights of Christians. The plight of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and wider world should be a concern for us in the west.
There is a very real danger of Christianity vanishing from its rightful birthplace in the Middle East.
Christians in the west should be doing their utmost to help fellow believers in whatever way possible. Of course, that can involve prayer and vigils, donating to NGO’s like Christian Aid and lobbying our MP’s. But let us not forget the role of the church in shaping the future of the Middle East.
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