In the wake of the suicide bomb attack on the Coptic Christians in Egypt and the deadly October massacre at a Christian church in Iraq, Paul McGeough writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that Christians are rapidly leaving the Middle East altogether:
…A century ago, they accounted for 20 per cent of the population in the Middle East – today the Vatican estimates that proportion to be 5 per cent and falling in a region in which most regimes impose limits and restrictions on Christian rituals.
Iran has recently been rounding up Christian missionaries and deadly Christian-Muslim violence has erupted again in Nigeria.
“If this phenomenon continues, Christianity in the Middle East will disappear,” the Reverend Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit in Beirut, told reporters on the eve of a Vatican conference that discussed the crisis last year. “This is not an unreal hypothesis – Turkey went from 20 per cent Christian in the early 20th century to 0.2 per cent now. [And the flight from Iraq] could bleed the Church in Iraq dry.”
In the early 1950s, 20 per cent of Egyptians were Christian – today, at just 10 per cent of the population, they are the region’s biggest Christian community but they hold just three of the 508 seats in the parliament.
There was advance warning of the attack on the Alexandria church on an Islamic website, which Cairo initially blamed on al-Qaeda but which some Egyptian political analysts speculated might be the work of locals frustrated by an absence of substantive reform in Mubarak’s 30-year reign.
What emerges from the experience of the latest hot spots is that what is perceived to be a solution often creates a greater problem – that is, trying to deal with the crisis as a security challenge that can be dealt with in the short term.
A bare-knuckled crackdown on those who thrive amid the collapse of their social and political institutions, as in Pakistan, or the marginalisation and oppression of voices for reform, as in Egypt, tends to gloss over the reality that the root cause of the problem is elsewhere…
Would Muslims put up with this treatment in North America or Europe?