Save the Middle East’s Christians

ch2.jpgFrance will remain by the side of the Arab world’s embattled minority.
Christians in the Middle East are worried. Worried about their survival in a region where they have lived for 2,000 years. Worried about their rights being respected at a time of major upheaval. Worried about heightened religious tensions. I want to tell them that I understand them, that I understand their fears.

For centuries, France has had a special mission with respect to Eastern Christians. It will not shy from it. That is why, in January 2011, President Nicolas Sarkozy established the framework of our policy, emphasizing that the fate of Eastern Christians symbolizes “the challenges of the globalized world we have irrevocably entered.”

Our vision is clear: There can be no true democratic revolution without the protection of minorities. Eastern Christians are destined to remain in their region. They are destined to help build their future, as they have always done in the past.

This is not a new issue. It has existed for centuries. But it has become more and more dramatic in recent years.

France has demonstrated its vigilance, first by sending clear messages to the countries in the Middle East, which bear primary responsibility for the security of their citizens. France has also mobilized its efforts in support of the EU Foreign Affairs Council’s Feb. 21, 2011, condemnation of violence against Christians and a U.N. Security Council statement addressed to them on Nov. 10, 2010, following terrorist attacks in Baghdad.

Iraqi Christians have paid an especially heavy price in recent years. We have expressed our solidarity by welcoming more than 1,300 of them on French soil since 2008 and by evacuating the injured following the attack on Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad on Oct. 31, 2010.

The Copts also occupy a special place in Egypt, rooted in the long history of their country. They have suffered increasing violence, abuses, and discrimination, as exemplified by the horrific 2011 attack on a church in Alexandria.

But the Copts are also engaged in the political life of their country like never before. Since the revolution, they have participated in elections — they want to be heard and to contribute, along with their fellow citizens, to the country’s democratic transition. The newly elected Egyptian parliament has expressed its commitment to guaranteeing the rights of the Copts, and we are counting on its decisive action.