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Christians in the Middle East

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What is the origin and history of Christians in the Middle East?


"...overwhelming majority of Middle East Christians came from nationalities which did not convert to Islam after the Arab conquest of the seventh century. "



What is the situation of Christians in the Middle East today?



Types of Persecutions:


There are various types of persecutions of Christians in the Middle East. We can sort them in two:


a) Religious persecution of individuals (human rights abuse): This persecution is conducted against individuals because of their religious affiliation. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, for examples, individuals are punished for displaying crosses or stars of David, jailed for praying in public, and in some cases punished by death, for not complying with the religious tenants. In these countries, as well as in Egypt and Sudan, converts to Christianity are sentenced to death.


b) Political oppression of religious communities (ethno-religious cleansing): In this case, ruling regimes are oppressing entire religious communities on political, security, and economic levels. The objectives of such oppression is to reduce the influence of the Christian communities, and in certain cases, to reduce it physically.

The ethno-religious cleansing of Christian peoples in the Middle East alternate between military suppression and political oppression. In Egypt, the large Coptic nation is systematically discriminated against on the constitutional, political, administrative, and cultural levels. Moreover para-military fundamentalist groups are conducting pogroms against the Christians, which includes burning Churches and assassinating civilians.

In Sudan, the stated objective of the ruling regime is to Arabise and Islamise the African Christian and Animist population of the south. Particularly since 1992, the Sudanese government has been waging a military campaign aimed at dispersing, enslaving, and subduing the southern Blacks.
Last but not least, let us review the third largest Christian community of the region, the Lebanese, who are under political and security oppression in their homeland.

Under occupation by a Moslem power, Syria, the Christian community is systematically suppressed by the Syrian-controlled regime in Beirut.
The smaller Christian groups do no better. In Iraq, for example, the Assyrians are another group targeted by the Saddam regime. Growing numbers of Assyrians have been assassinated by radical fundamentalist groups.





Religious persecution of Christians in the Middle East has reached extreme forms of human degradation: In Sudan, abundant reports by international human rights organisations have documented the enslavement by the northern fundamentalist forces of southern African Christians. According to the reports and experts, there are today between 600,000 and one million Black slaves from Sudan, who have either been taken to the north of that country to work as domestics or tending farms, or sold in other Arab countries.

The authors of persecution:


a. The religious persecution and oppression is normally conducted by one religious group against other religious group: for Christians, this case has been the case in Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan. Of course, persecution can also conducted by members of one particular group against other members of the same religious group on the basis of religious fundamentalism (Algeria, Afghanistan, Iran), or racism (Mauritania), but this is not the topic of today's discussion.


b. Persecution of ethno-religious groups, the Mideast Christians in particular, is conducted by legal governments (Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan) or by organisations (National Islamic Front in Sudan, Front Islamique de Salut, the Hizbollah of Lebanon, etc.)


- Prof. Walid Phares, before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Nea East and South Asia Subcommittee on "Religious Persecution in the Middle East." Washington DC, April 29, 1997



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