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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Vanishing Christians of the Middle East

The Synod of Bishops for the Middle East is meant to address the decline of Christians in the Muslim world. The reason for the decline is obvious. It is the willingness to discuss that reason which is at issue.

Christians in the Middle East are a minority in a Muslim region. Even the more moderate Muslim countries, such as Egypt, marginalize Christians and routinely deprive them of basic civil rights. Egypt is an American ally and nearly 10 percent of the country is Christian, yet that 10 percent live as second-class citizens, discriminated against and constantly subject to violence.

The rising tide of Islamization has made it more dangerous than ever to be a non-Muslim in a Muslim country, in ways that range from everyday discrimination to terrorist attacks. But the West is suffused by a narrative which insists that Islam is tolerant and promotes tolerance. Such a false narrative makes it extremely difficult to address or recognize the problem.

Meanwhile growing Muslim migration into Europe raises questions about the future of Christianity even in the West. If Christians are denied basic civil rights even in moderate Muslim countries, what will their fate be if France and Germany go the way of Byzantium? The fact that Christians do not generally enjoy equal rights in the Muslim world, suggests that they would also not enjoy such rights in Eurabia. The root of the problem lies in Sharia, Islamic law, which treats non-Muslims and women as second-class citizens.

Protecting Christians in the Muslim world requires working to replace laws based on Islamic jurisprudence, with laws based on objective secular standards that treat all religions equally. But this is likely to prove impossible. The governments of countries like Egypt are already under pressure by Islamists, who gain popular support by accusing them of being puppets of the West and disloyal to Islam. Applying pressure to the governments themselves cannot significantly shift the balance. Especially since the reign of those like Mubarak is endangered by the rise of the Islamists determined to overthrow the government and replace it with an Islamic state.

The real problem underlying it all is Islam. The question is what can be done about it.

Perhaps a first necessary step would be triage. The Catholic Church should consider the impact of importing the conditions already prevalent in the Muslim world into Europe, and take a firm stand against Muslim immigration in the name of Christian civil rights. This is not mere talk as some European countries are already projected to have a Muslim majority within a generation. If Muslim immigration countries, then the fate of Christians in Europe, will likely be that of Christians in the Middle East.

Such an action would empower marginalized European parties battling against the erosion of Europe's traditional character. It would also provide the Catholic Church with some leverage that it could employ with the Muslim world, demonstrating that it is capable of affecting the conditions of Muslims in the West, just as they are capable of affecting the conditions of Christians in the East.

But so far the Vatican has made no move in this direction. The Synod acknowledges that the problem exists, but its clergy are often part of the problem. The addresses still focus heavily on Israel, despite the fact that Israel is a tiny strip of land in the region. Turkey's steep Christian decline, going "from 20 percent Christian in the early 20th century to 0.2 percent now", could not even be remotely traced to anything involving Israel, as the two countries have been allies until recently. Instead it comes down to the Turkish persecution of Christians. An issue that has to be addressed, particularly in the era of Erdogan and his radical Islamist AKP party.

Michel Sabbah, the Archbishop of Jerusalem, will be arriving to promote which calls for a boycott of Israel in support of creating a Muslim Palestinian state. This will not serve the cause of Christian civil rights, as the Palestinian Authority has overseen a dramatic decline in the Christian presence, notably in Bethlehem. It would put Christians under Muslim authority, which would undermine one of the few places in the Middle East where indigenous Christians are not being repressed. Kairos Palestine does not promote Christian civil rights, it promotes Arab Nationalism.

The very fact that Kairos Palestine demands "an independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds as its capital", telegraphs that this is a document driven by a Muslim agenda, not a Christian one. Al Quds is the Islamic name for Jerusalem, not the Christian one. The Biblical Latin name for Jerusalem was Hierosolyma, the Biblical Greek name for it was Hierousalēm. The Pre-Islamic Arabic name for it was Ūršalaym. When a supposed Christian document replaces the traditional name for Jerusalem, with the Islamic Al Quds, it demonstrates that its worldview is Islamic, not Christian.

Unsurprisingly Kairos Palestine actually defends Islamic terrorism, and even promotes the cause of Hamas. The document repeatedly describes terrorism as "resistance". It blames the international community for the separation of Gaza and the civil war between Hamas and Fatah, "since it refused to deal positively with the will of the Palestinian people expressed in the outcome of democratic and legal elections in 2006" (1.5.1). Those would be the elections which Hamas won. Quite disturbingly, Kairos Palestine actually appears to endorse an Islamist Hamas government-- despite the persecution of Christians by Hamas.

And the collaboration continues. In Lebanon, Michel Aoun, who returned from exile to side with Hezbollah terrorists, claimed that Islamic extremism had nothing to do with the dwindling presence of Christians in the Middle East. Instead he blamed everything from economics to WW1 to Israel. Aoun demanded that the Catholic Church, "halt attempts to demonize Islam, the religion of more than one billion... And to call for examining the essence and religious text of Islam only, away from the acts of terrorist groups which Muslims consider themselves victims of just like the rest of the world."

This last is particularly laughable, as Aoun betrayed Lebanese Christians by signing a deal with Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist organization backed by Iran. Hezbollah's goal is to create an Islamic state. In Hezbollah's 1985 message to Christians, it stated, "We call upon you to embrace Islam so that you can be happy in this world and the next. If you refuse to adhere to Islam, maintain your ties with the Muslims and don't take part in any activity against them." Which is a roundabout way of saying, "Submit or we'll destroy you."

Nor is Aoun misled about what he's doing. In a 2002 interview, he described Hezbollah as a terrorist group under Syrian control and said that Christians had been turned into second-class citizens. A few years later, he cut a deal with that same organization, and now promotes the Islamist agenda. If Aoun helps Hezbollah take over, the Christian presence in Lebanon will be destroyed.

In the fact of those like Sabbah or Aoun, there are Middle Eastern Christian clergy who continue to fight for civil rights. But they have to walk a fine line, because what they can say is governed by the laws of the Muslim world. Speaking out can have legal consequences for them and deadly consequences for their followers. The statements they do make are careful and couched in ambiguous terminology. A necessity in a region where Muslim outrage quickly translates into church burnings and murders. And this gives Islamist apologists like Aoun and Sabbah a free hand to tell the one-sided Islamist tale.

The Synod so far includes the usual calls for dialogue with Muslims and Jews, the usual comments about the importance of the Peace Process, which would only accelerate the decline of Christians in the Middle East, and limited mentions of the dangers of Islamism. But if the Catholic Church hopes to preserve Christianity in the Middle East, it will have to take a far more active role than that. For the moment its policies are aimed at trying to preserve Christians as a minority in a Muslim Middle East. That is understandable, for the reasons laid out above, but also unsustainable.

Middle Eastern Christians are taking any chance they can get to leave for Europe and America where they will be able to enjoy freedom of religion, without persecution. The Vatican is concerned over this exodus, yet it is inevitable. The Jews fled the Muslim world in the same way. Few people will remain persecuted, if they can find another way out. The only way to reverse that exodus is to forcefully work against persecution and discrimination. Most Middle Eastern Christians have deep ties to the region, they do not want to leave. But creating a safe space for them will require more than just dialogue, but a demonstration that the Muslim world must respect the rights of Christians. Not that it should, because it's the right thing to do.

The Catholic Church has demonstrated before that it has the power to impact politics in the West. In the United States alone, it has had its impact in the debate on amnesty for illegal aliens and nationalized health care. It may be time for it to begin telling the real story of Christians in the Middle East, and countering the Islamist narrative that Sharia promotes tolerance. And to take a strong position against Muslim migration to Europe, until the Muslim demonstrates a willingness to grant full legal equality to Christians under their rule.

Standing up for oppressed Christians around the world, would be a meaningful and moral act, that could actually make a difference and prevent the fall of Europe. It would not be without its risks. Such a move would alienate American and European liberals and increase attacks on Christians in the short term. However it is the only step that has any chance of checking both the Islamization of Europe and the DeChristianization of the Middle East.

19 comments:

marek said...

Daniel,

I agree with your analysis regarding the inevitable disappearance of Christianity in ME under current conditions.
I do not see that Christianity had any significant role in Obama's health care or potential amnesty for illegal immigrants. These and other policies are the result of a "progressive" agenda being forced on reluctant / polarized population. While it is possible that the polarization parallels to some extent the religious/secular divide, the role of Christianity is probably marginal.
The real issue is whether the West will ever overcome the PC and the prevailing "progressive" agenda and recognize Islam for what it really is. Whether at this point in time will the West be still capable to muster the will and the necessary resources to act is the mother of all questions.
I am not optimistic.

Paul said...

Not all of Europe is being Islamized. Only those parts that are traditionally difficult spots for the Catholic Church. The same goes for the US. Notice how South and Central America are not at risk for Islamization. Why not? You'd think that impoverished and ignorant South and Central America would be ripe for the taking by Islam.

If the Catholic Church were to stand up for "Christians" in Europe and speak up against a Muslim takeover, then they might have to answer for why Islam is not raging through South and Central America where Catholics have exclusive spiritual authority. It might also have to explain why Muslims seem to have no interest in the region either. The Catholic Church and Islam seem to have Africa rather neatly carved up too.

This is not the first time that Islam has seized Europe and the Catholic Church walked away from that intact and even stronger, it's competition weakened or wiped out. Sounds like a plan to me.

Mike Elmore said...

Sorry, but if you are looking for courage, strength and leadership for civilization, leave the Catholic hierarchy out of it. The church has it's head so up the ass of interfaith dialog that the Muslims are going to find it hard to find a head to chop off when the time comes. I am an ex Catholic and can tell you the leadership and it's followers are the biggest dimmies of all. They honestly believe that it's all in the hands of God and what will be, will be. Kind of reminds me of another religious group. No, the only hope is for some liberal group to sees that Islam is not fair and is out to destroy their cozy secular way of life. When some liberal group sees that Islam is not like all other religions and realizes that there is no such thing as religious, moral or cultural equivalency, only then will they start trying to warn the world. Kind of ironic wouldn't you say but I wouldn't hold your breath, so far they have done a real bad job of seeing the existential threat plus having to admit you were wrong might make it even harder. Hope I am wrong. Your writing and insight are spot on. Thanks.Mike Elmore

Anonymous said...

It all started in the 70s when flourishing Christian Lebanon was destroyed by Muslims with not a pips from the West and its churches. Michel Aoun does not do anything Netanyahu and Barak are not doing, trying to keep their government another day, complete impotence. Just look at the pope castigating Israel for the Christians' problems in the ME, or, the archbishop of Canterbury agreeing to sharia and you can see that even the "conservative" Catholic Church is so blinded by hatred of Jews that they can't see the sword of Islam coming down on them

Anonymous said...

Yet, I have some Christian Arab friends, and I have been surprised by the fact that they side more with the Muslims than the Jews, even in private conversations, in situations where they can express themselves with nothing to fear.
I was told that the reason was that they are all Arabs, Christian just happen to be of a different religion. But they feel close to their Arab cousins, the Christians.
Jewas are rejected, as foreigners, yes, by Christian Arabs just as much as by Muslims Arabs.
This has been my direct experience in the real world.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Paul, there's actually a growing Muslim power rising in Latin America, just not being reported much

Anonymous, in the Arab world tribal bonds can be stronger than religious ones, but it depends on which part of the middle east is being dealt with

with Islamization though, even the Sabbahs will be nothing more than pawns for the likes of Hamas

Rachel said...

I think that part of the problem with the representation of Christians in the ME is the fact that the vast majority of Christians are not represented. Only a handful are empowered enough to discuss the conditions of Christians in the Islamic world with the West, and those few, know how they came to be empowered: by collaberating with Muslim crazies. Thus, you have blatant turncoats like Aoun and stupid wenches like Suha Arafat controlling how the suffering of Christians in Muslim countries--and so blaming everything on tiny Israel. Meanwhile, the disempowered masses don't have a voice, and can't represent themselves. If I wanted to know the source of a persecution, I would ask the persecuted people. Suha Arafat, "Christian" though she may be, is hardly persecuted (the woman is more political than spiritual...Arafat, who was privately known for his attraction to young men more than women, wouldn't have married her if she actually had any connection to the Palestinian Christian community. He married her, a Muslim in everything but admission, who claimed to be Christian 'by heritage' to 'prove' to the world that Muslims don't hate Christians). The bimbo is living on Malta and receiving millions a year as a stipend. If I wanted to know the source of persecution in the Muslim world, I would interview surviving members of a villiage that just got massacred by a Muslim horde.


The other problem is, of course, the Catholic Church. The last time any Catholic Pope had the gonads to stand up to Islam and suggest that it was prone to violence, the Muslims rioted for weeks (irony is apparently something that illiterate, 7th century desert bandits don't get). My issues with Evangelical Christians aside...they are far more willing to actually investigate the global suffering of Christians than the Catholics or more 'progressive' Prodestant branches. That is why they have so much tension with the Muslims---they *know* about massacres of Christians in Indonesia, the brutality in Sudan, exc. And they *know* what the common denominator in all of it is: persecution of Christians either comes from Communist regemes like China, or Muslim countries. The Catholic Church simply goes in denial if the reality isn't politically correct.

Marc said...

"Standing up for oppressed Christians around the world, would be a meaningful and moral act..."

AMEN!

We must draw a distinction between what Christianity teaches and how some people distort and betray that teaching.

Paul said...

Sultan, you say that there is a "growing Muslim power rising in Latin America". What do you know about it? Can you give me some references or links? I just don't believe it. I don't believe there is anything like what is going in the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Britain and the US.

One of the reasons that I don't believe it is because a good part of the booming Muslim populations in these areas is due to public welfare programs and there are no public welfare programs in Latin America.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

there was a large amount of arab immigration to latin america, it's had its impact

Anonymous said...

Paul, the goal of this 'wave' of immigration is not to stay in S. America....

WSB-TV 2 published a population breakdown from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement staging facility in Florence, Ariz., dated April 15, 2010, which includes detainees from as far away as Afghanistan, Armenia, Bosnia, Egypt, Ghana, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Botswana, Turkey and many other countries.

Based on U.S. Border Patrol statistics, there were 30,147 OTMs apprehended in fiscal year 2003; 44, 614 in fiscal year 2004; 165,178 in fiscal year 2005; and 108,025 in fiscal year 2006. Most were caught along the U.S. Southwest border.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2008 Yearbook of Immigration Studies, from the Office of Immigration Statistics, federal law enforcement agencies detained 791,568 deportable aliens in fiscal year 2008 – and 5,506 of them were from 14 “special-interest countries.”

Historically speaking....
http://www.islamawareness.net/LatinAmerica/carib_and_southamerica.html

Pamela said...

Paul, in response to your query,

"Only those parts that are traditionally difficult spots for the Catholic Church. The same goes for the US. Notice how South and Central America are not at risk for Islamization. Why not? You'd think that impoverished and ignorant South and Central America would be ripe for the taking by Islam."

It is and it's being taken. Not just the impoverished South America, but in the USA conservative Christians are converting to Islam, and isn't Carlos Slim, a Muslim? He is Mexico's richest man, and I think he owns the Washington Post or something. Islam is spreading in South America too, but I think more from conversions if I remember a Times report, some immigration too.



Turning Muslim in Texas
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9184353144432289069#

Texans turning Muslim?
British documentary on Lone Star Islam has new life on Web
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/religion/stories/DN-texasmuslims_20rel.ART0.State.Edition1.3a08dcf.html


More US Hispanics drawn to Islam
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0928/p03s02-ussc.html
Marriage, post-9/11 curiosity, and a shared interest in issues such as immigration are key reasons.
The same goes for the US. Notice how South and Central America are not at risk for Islamization.

Paul said...

I think the best way to view the difference between some history of Muslims in South and Central America and real Islamization as we are seeing in the Protestant countries is in mosque construction. What is the rate of new mosque construction in South and Central America? Recall such construction is largely foreign funded here in the US and Europe. Where are the mosques going up in Latin America? I'll make a good guess that it's mostly nowhere. And the rich Muslims abroad aren't even making an effort. Muslims are not settling in South and Central America and it is because the Muslims have given the Catholic countries license to be Muslim free. Take the suggestion further. What is mosque construction like in places like Ireland or Italy? Spain has taken some hits from Muslim terrorists, but I'll bet mosque construction is low in Spain as well.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

I believe Carlos Slim is a Lebanese Christian Arab, rather than Muslim. They're fairly common in that part of the world.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

There's plenty of mosque building in Latin America.

e.g.

The Saudis funded a mega-mosque in Buenos Aires under Menem (a terrorist collaborator) partly funded by his government meant for thousands of Muslims.

There's a silent but deadly rise of Islam south of the border.

Anonymous said...

Paul

Christianity has declined in Europe,

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/30/news/30iht-islam.4.11536751.html

Islam overtakes Catholicism in number of adherents


Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world, the Vatican said on Sunday.

wanumba said...

Thanks for the very interesting articles. I think you've nailed the reality of the situation in Europe, but the solutions are going to be harder to implement than to discuss. Europeans have almost totally abandoned the church and are secular and quite cynical spiritually. So few go to any church that too many have no basic Bible literacy, much less spiritual stimulation from it.
It's worse in Europe, but it's already a serious problem in the USA, this next generation has little to zero Bible connection in any measure. WHere do you start when an AMerican in all seriousness says, "I thought Egypt was a pueblo."
Huh???? Terrified yet? Forget about finding it on a map. Hopeless. Sunday church and schools used to give everyone a basic framework of the big players - Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Rome, and Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho. Not now. It's a whole new ballgame.
Taliban John Walker Lindh is a warning. The lacadasical anything goes, and purposeless lives of this generation which is a failure by the current generation to teach, mold and develop their children will be an attraction for highly focused Islamistists to push in and demand a strict discipline these people have lacked.
I think Mark Steyn made a solid observation some years ago when he said the problems will come out of the infiltrated Western countries that self-delude a sophistication that is actually just cynicism, while countries like Iraq and Iran (the PEOPLE) are fed up with the death toll and brutality of radicalism.
See what's going on with CHristianity? THe missionary flow has reversed. Nuts and bolts pastors who've seen a few things out of AFrica and ASia are going to the countires that once sent missionaries, and preaching a bracing and lively gospel. Fed up AMerican Episcopalians put their churches under African leadership - there is a shift going on.
To make the point, Ann Coulter was right, conquer and convert to CHristianity. Europe is a spiritual mess, which is enabling the spread of Islam. But try to talk to Europeans - and to their secular minds, CHristianity is the oppressor of liberty, Israel the neo-colonizer. Gads, like Belgium is still trying to blame anyone else but themselves for their guilt of their Congo moral disgrace.

Anonymous said...

I agree anonymous, the Evangelical conservative churches are on the decline here too, not just the Catholic ones. In fact, Evangelicals are reporting the biggest defections.

Anonymous said...

there is ab eternal cycle of sadism and masochism in the christian religions but in islam it has always been sadism which prevails. when christianity enters a period of masochism in its struggle against Islam it becomes and easy prey. this is the position at the moment and of course the new liberal secular elites have also joined in the attack. ds

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