American Middle East Christians Congress
For the past few years, there has been a concerted movement around the Arab, Middle East, and world at large regarding the issue of Middle East Christians’ and Christianity’s presence in the Middle East. Some of these efforts were initiated by The Vatican, Arab kings or heads of governments, or by the various heads of Middle East Christian denominations in the form of conferences, meetings, and symposiums. However, their agendas either overlapped or competed with each other with declarations or suggestions. Yet, the process of emptying the Middle East of Christians or infringing their civic or religious rights has not stopped and, in some cases, has worsened. At present, the end product has failed logically.
Before the so-called “Arab Spring,” the Middle East Christian denominations and their religious hierarchies had adopted a policy of either the status quo or adjustment to the political, religious, and social status of the country in which they lived. But since then, a new breed of leadership has emerged with policies that are more coherent, intellectual, and courageous and either challenged the status quo or brought into the open the plight of the Middle East Christians in their countries. The world put very little notice to the targeting of Christians in Lebanon in the 1970s and the aftermath of the American-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent forced emigration and immigration of two-thirds of indigenous Iraqi-Christians either to more stable areas in Iraq or to the west. These changes in the geopolitical population in Iraq have alerted The Vatican and the west, and their plight has become more noted with a new modus operandi to protect the Middle East Christians. This new leadership, whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, or elsewhere, has more in common philosophically than in the past, where they were more concentrated on their denomination or on local politics. This is a positive movement, but this like-minded church leadership must come together as Middle East Christians and then as local Christians because the anti-Middle East Christian movements are endangering all and not one Christian community.
The plight of the Middle East Christians was also noticed by Arab and Muslim leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere. Emptying of the Middle East of Christians or the rise of religious fanaticism movements does not bode well for their governments or religion. Hence, leaders such as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia or King Abdullah of Jordan have planned international and national conferences regarding the Middle East Christians, and then to a degree, built bridges with Middle East Christians and western governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Even in the west, westernized Muslim leaders, such as Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (the British government minister for faith and the first Muslim member of British cabinet), called on western governments to do more to protect besieged Christian minorities across the world, particularly in the Holy Land where they are now seen as outsiders. According to her, “religious freedom is a proxy for human rights and must not be an ‘add-on’ to foreign policy.” She added, “when the majority religion is offended or aggrieved, ‘the local Christian community is fair game, and that somehow collective punishment can be meted out against these communities for what they see as the perceived actions of their co-religionists’ abroad,” especially in war-torn regions of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, and they are threatened by Muslim majorities in the very places that gave rise to Christianity.”
The east and west European and American leaders at present seem to have reverse roles regarding the preservation of Middle East Christianity, Christians, their rights, and their existence.
While President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, through their policies, are publicly demanding the safeguarding of the Syrian Christians and the Middle East Christians, the United States government, which has been known as the champion of preserving civic, civil, and religious freedom all over the world, is seen to do the opposite by cooperating with politically-religious-minded political groups, such as in Egypt, the Syrian opposition, or by turning a blind eye to the Iraqi Christians’ dilemma after invading Iraq in 2003.
Pope Francis, like his predecessors, has been eloquent and outspoken regarding the Middle East Christians. Unfortunately, his message has been dimmed by the western press, who has been more interested in his “liberal” view than in his various quotations, conferences, and meetings addressing preserving the Middle East Christians. Quoting Pope Francis, “We won’t resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians who for two thousand years confess the name of Jesus, as full citizens in social, cultural and religious life of the nations to which they belong,” he said. The Pope appealed for “everyone’s right to a dignified life and to freely profess their faith [and to] be respected.” He appealed to the Muslim communities at large that the Middle East Christians should have the same freedom of religion as Muslims enjoy in the west.
We must learn from other faith-based communities who have faced similar fates or wanted to preserve their identities in the world, such as with the creation of the World Jewish Congress or the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, in order to internationalize the Middle East Christians’ plights and work with like-minded. Additionally, this newly created organization should have the collaboration of the religious hierarchy and laypeople–political, social, and economical organizations–so as to speak with one voice, one agenda, and one action proactively and reactively. Such an organization should and will have the backing of western and eastern countries’ leadership who believe in the preservation of the Middle East Christians, peaceful coexistence between inter-and intra-religious, and the culture and heritage of their countries.
The Middle East Christians have been the victims of recurring genocides in the past, whether with the Armenians, Assyrians, Syriacs, Chaldeans, or others–collectively or singularly. If we do not stop it and instead turn a blind eye, history will condemn us. It is difficult to understand why America and the western governments are not responding to these genocides in a similar manner than they did to the Yugoslavia/Sarajevo events, where the Muslim community was threatened, by arising the world’s conscience and interfering militarily. The present Middle East Christians’ situation is similar, if not worse, than Sarajevo.
The Middle East Christians expect more than just global resolutions, mere condemnations, or sympathetic views. We believe such genocides must be reported to the United Nations Security Council and International Criminal Court at The Hague to stop this madness. We hope Arab and Muslim leadership and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation will come in the open and support such acts.
The American Middle East Christians Congress and others believe the time has come to create or re-organize such an organization that is internationally recognized and supported by the majority with a Middle East Christian agenda compatible to the modus operandi of the World Jewish Congress and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to promote and preserve the heritage, faith, culture, political, civic, and civil rights of the Middle East Christians.
Dr. Ramsay F. Dass, MD
American Middle East Christians Congress
www.middleeastchristian.org or www.amecc.us
24601 Coolidge Highway
Oak Park, MI 48237
Office: (248) 546-9100
Cell: (248) 763-600