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Christians in the Middle East: Their History, Impact and Enduring Genocide
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History of Christianity in the Middle East
  • Christianity originated in the Near East (now encompassed by the Middle East) during the 1st Century A.D. and Christian communities have survived in the region for the past 2,000 years.
  • As Christianity grew, it coexisted alongside older traditions--Judaism, Zoroastrianism and the monotheism of the Druze, Yazidis and Mandeans, among others--all of which survive in the region, though in vastly diminished form.
  • Christianity survived the rise of Islam and thrived under the successive Muslim empires.
  • Near Eastern Christians are members of a large number of churches and traditions, including the Coptic Christians, the Assyrian Church, the Melkite Church and many other Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations.
Contributions to the Near East, Islam and the World
  • These ancient Christian communities have long contributed vibrantly to their societies in the fields of science, philosophy and medicine.
  • In the Abbasid Empire, Christians were exclusively pick to be doctors for the Caliph and they translated works of Socrates, Aristotle and other Western scholarly work into Arabic, giving birth to the Islamic Renaissance.
  • For Christians in the Middle East, their faith is intrinsically entwined with their Apostolic Ministries. They are actively involved in providing health care and education to entire communities. For example, the majority of those treated in Christian hospitals in the Middle East are Muslim.
  • From Egypt to Lebanon, Christian universities and schools continue to educate Christians and Muslims alike and Christians have an overwhelming presence in creating modern Arabic music, art and literature.
Persecution of Christians in Numbers
  • In Iraq, Christians numbered about 1,500,000 in 2003, representing just over 6% of the population of the country down from 12% on 1947 in a population of 4.7 million. They numbered over 1.4 million in 1987 or 8% of the population.
  • After the Iraq War, it was estimated that the number of Christians in Iraq had dropped to as low as 450,000 by 2013-- with estimates as low as 200,000 since the breakout of the ISIS onslaught.
  • Nearly a third of Syria's Christians, about 600,000, have found themselves with no choice but to flee the country, driven out by extremist groups like the al-Nusra Front and ISIS.
  • In Egypt, fear of instability and heightened attacks on Christians by Islamist militants have led to over 100,000 Christians fleeing since the 2011 Arab Spring protests.
  • Lebanon has experienced a large migration of Lebanese Christians for many generations, going back to the 1800's. There are more Lebanese people living outside of Lebanon (8.6-14 million), than within (4.3 million) and the majority of the diaspora population consists of Lebanese Christians. The Lebanese Civil War, higher Muslim birthrates, the presence of Palestinians in Lebanon and Syrian migrant workers have contributed to the higher Christian emigration rate. Lebanese Christians still remain culturally and politically prominent, forming 35-40% of the population.
Why Bother Standing Up For Christians?
  • Christians in the Near East have been suffering extremely in recent years, and their existence which is a testimony to multiculturalism and interfaith coexistence that has been a part of the intricate mosaic of this region is under threat of extinction -- which has direct implications for the US and world.
  • Having contributed heavily to Arab and Muslim culture and civilization, Christians serve as a bridge between the East and West, something in severe shortage in our day and age.
  • The existence of these Christians teaches Westerns about the Eastern origin of their faith, and also helps combat extremism by promoting tolerance. This not only helps the US's national security interests, but can be used to show our children how people of different faiths can live together in peace, creating a better vision for the future of the United States and world to aim for.
  • In light of recent kidnappings, forced exiles, torture and murder Christians suffer under ISIL, it is time for the US and international community to recognize the what is happening to these Christians for what it is: Genocide. It is up to us, in both East and West, to use our positions in media to shed light on this issue.
Christians Suffering Under ISIS
  • The political situation surrounding the Syrian Civil War has enabled attacks on religious minority groups by both government and opposition-associated groups. Christian bishops, nuns and lay people have been targets of kidnappings and violence during the conflict and churches have been intentionally attacked.
  • In Iraq, Christians as well as Shi'a, Yazidis and others have been the target of attacks by ISIS and continuing offenses by the terrorists. All the Christian institutions in Mosul such as churches, cemeteries, and monasteries have either been destroyed, occupied, converted into mosques, converted into ISIS centers or shut down.
  • Christians in the region are being forced to convert to Islam, pay a heavy tax, or die.
  • The crime of genocide has two elements: intent and action. "Intentional" means purposeful and can be proven directly from statements or orders. An action is process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim of a stated intention.
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader and self-proclaimed leader of ISIS, released a video that made very clear ISIS's intent to destroy individuals who self-identify as Christians through whatever means possible, by death or forced removal. He stated that "coexistence with Jews and Christians" is impossible according to their interpretation of the Quran.
  • The forced expulsion and attacks on Christians during the fall of Mosul in the summer of 2014, massacres of large groups of Orthodox Christians on the beaches of Libya, and the horrific stories told by survivors which detail crucifixions and burning of Christians are more than enough proof that ISIS is committing genocide.

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