Wednesday 13 May 2009

Christianity under threat in the Middle East: secularism the answer

To mark the Pope's visit to Israel, yet another article on the decline of the Christian community in the Middle East:

Christians used to be a vital force in the Middle East. They dominated Lebanon and filled top jobs in the Palestinian movement. In Egypt, they were wealthy beyond their number. In Iraq, they packed the universities and professions.

But now, 'a region that a century ago was 20 percent Christian is about 5 percent today and dropping.' The cause? Emigration, as a result of 'political violence, lack of economic opportunity and the rise of radical Islam.' On the latter: 'With Islam pushing aside nationalism as the central force behind the politics of identity, Christians who played important roles in various national struggles find themselves left out.'

The verdict of Sarkis Naoum, a Christian columnist for the Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar, is telling: 'Unless there is a turn toward secularism in the Arab world, I don’t think there is a future for Christians here'. Christian leaders in the west, like Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who see secularism as the enemy, should take note, and be careful what they wish for.

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