This past year I read Philip Jenkins excellent book, “The Lost History of Christianity.” He describes the disappearance of large swaths of Christianity. In particular, the Nestorian and Jacobite churches were all but overrun within a few generations by Islamic conquerers. While Muslims are quick to describe the bloody and abhorrent behavior of the Crusaders, they don’t mention the horrific genocide of these eastern Christians. As I read this book I kept thinking, “How could this happen? Where were the church leaders in other parts of the world standing against this?” According to Jenkins, rivalries between Christians and general apathy were at least a part of the reason. Corruption in the church played a role. Overall, though, the pattern is clear: Islamic military and cultural pressure either killed Christians, ran them off, or they converted to avoid persecution.
This leads me to write about the current war on Christians taking place in the Middle East. As I type this post, Fox News is reporting that 100,000 Christians have left Egypt in the past few years. Iraqi Christians have fled wholesale, leaving just a few behind in an embattled minority. Israel, often thought of as a bastion of liberalism, applies pressure on its Christian minority. Iran persecutes its Christian population with zeal. The very few LIbyan Christians cower in fear of what the future might hold now that Ghaddafi has been removed. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Christians in the Middle East are an endangered species.
Why is this? Certainly the militant Islamic movement is the main reason. The Arab Spring is apparently giving way to the fall of Christianity in these nations. If the events of Egypt are any indication of what we can expect in other Muslim countries, then I can certainly understand why Christians there are choosing to flee.
I don’t know what sort of positive things we as Western Christians can do to help out. Protestants don’t get too cranked up about the plight of Coptic Christians. Catholics aren’t so eager to assist the Orthodox. I often see commercials run by organizations pleading for cash to assist poor, elderly Jewish people in Israel. My sense is that these are tailor made to appeal to an Evangelical audience. Should we prioritize elderly Jewish people in Israel over Christians suffering from persecution in their Muslim-dominated homelands?
Will, in our generation, the Christians of the Middle East be eradicated?