Christians fleeing the Middle East

Le Monde’s religion report, Henri Tincq, takes a look of the fate of Christians in the Middle East. Read the entire article here.

“But, between the calvary of Iraqi Christians, (500,000 Chaldeans have fled the country since the First Gulf War) and the reaffirmed political authority of the Lebanese Maronite patriarch, between the apparent satisfaction of Jordanian and Syrian Christians and the marginalization of religious minorities (Armenians, Greek Orthodox Syriacs, Jews, etc.) in Turkey, how does on assess the situation of Middle Eastern Christians?

…Iraqi Christians see no end to the US occupation of Iraq. In Mosul, only 500 Christian families remain out of 2,000. The Christians of Mosul and Basrah have had to choose between the return of the ahl al-dhimma (a system of protection of non-Muslin minorities under the Ottoman Empire, a combination of subservience and a poll tax), emigration or death. “Terror has shattered coexistence”, laments Monsignor Jean-Benjamin Sleiman, the Latin Rite Archbishop of Baghdad.

….The Coptic Bishop of Cairo, Monsignor Youhanna Golta, describes an Egypt where extremists are gaining ground everywhere: in public life, in schools and in the media (60% of religious programming on TV). For them, one’s first loyalty is to Islam. A silent war pits them against modernizing or secular movement, which is attempting to save Egypt from a return to the Middle Ages…

Neither is Turkey, with its nationalist secularism, spared. The Kemalist ideology remains deeply rooted in the bureaucracy and in the courts that are responsible for unrecognized ethno-religious minorities. “It’s not a question of religious difference but one of the definition of citizenship”, says Philippe Kalfayan, of the International Human Rights Foundation, expressing surprise at the lack of coverage of these policies.

…In one year, fundamentalists have murdered one Catholic priest and three Protestant missionaries. Jean-Francois Colosimo, an academic at the Saint-Serge Institute, has complained of the situation to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Honorary Orthodox Primate (250 million faithful) and recognized the world over, except in Istanbul where, for the Turks, he is merely a parish priest for a few thousand Greek Orthodox and forbidden from reopening Turkey’s only seminary at Halki.

…In Aleppo (Syria) the historical cradle of Christianity, the Christian population has fallen from 50% to 6% in 50 years. The Bishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clement Jeanbart, proposes an energetic initiatives to halt the Islamist onslaught. Initiatives to preserve the forms of conviviality (families, neighborhoods, associations) between Christians and Muslims to combat together the fertile ground for Islamism –misery, poverty, unemployment and illiteracy– with schools, dispensaries, hospitals and job training centers….”