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January 25, 2012 10:41 am
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Christianity in the Middle East Must Be Safeguarded

avatar by Dexter Van Zile

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A cross is staked into rocks looking over into Mount Lebanon. Photo: wiki commons.

It’s time for journalists, human rights activists and church leaders in the U.S. to confront the prospect of Christianity’s destruction in the region of its birth.

That’s the message that came out of a one-day conference that took place in Framingham, Massachusetts on Jan. 21, 2012. The conference, titled The Persecuted church: Christian Believers in Peril in the Middle East was sponsored by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012.

Andrea Levin, CAMERA’s executive director said the goal of the conference was to draw attention to the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

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“If the media shines a light consistently and clearly on the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians, that can make a crucial difference in restraining potential violence,” she said. “Silence on the other hand may do the opposite.”

Walid Phares, an American scholar born in Lebanon who advises the U.S. Congress on issues related to terrorism, said Christians and other minorities have been the victims of violence for decades. “I lived through it in the 20th century. Now we’re all living it, trying to witness for it,” he said. “We have crossed the threshold of a new century and yet it’s still happening.”

Attendees of the conference heard testimony from Juliana Taimoorazy, founder of the Iraqi Christian relief council and Egyptian human rights activists Cynthia Farahat. Taimoorazy, who reported on the plight of Assyrians in Israq stated that since June 2004, churches in Iraq have been bombed more than 80 times. Sometimes, multiple churches would be bombed at the same time as part of a coordinated attack.

“Most of these attacks happened on Fridays, marking the day of Islamic prayer,” she said. Clergy have been routinely kidnapped and killed on a regular basis. Even children have been killed by Islamists, Taimoorazy reported.

“In October of 2006 – in the 21st century – a 14-year-old boy was crucified in Basra, in the center of the city,” she said.

Farahat reported that Copts are second-class citizens in their homeland

“But for me, as a woman and a Copt, I am a fourth-class citizen,” she said. “The first class citizen is the Egyptian Sunni Muslim male, the second class is the Sunni female. The third is the Christian male. The fourth is the Christian female. I’m a fourth-class Egyptian citizen with absolutely no legal rights.”

The plight of religious and ethnic minorities in Muslim and Arab majority countries in the Middle East has largely been ignored because of an obsession with the Arab-Israeli conflict, Phares said during his keynote address. Phares first witnessed this after immigrating to the U.S. from Lebanon in the 1990s.

“In the 1990s, if there as an incident in the West Bank, the son-in-law, the mom, the uncle of both sides would be interviewed and the psychologists would come in and talk about the deep roots of the conflict,” Phares said. “At the same time, two villages were burned in Egypt or the Kurds would be gassed. Zero [coverage] in the New York Times.”

Franck Salameh, assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies at Boston College, echoed Phares’ complaint.

“There’s clearly a prevailing hierarchy in the media’s treatment of Middle Eastern violence,” he said. “Some victims get airtime on prime time, all the time. Others simply don’t. Middle Eastern Christians are not a top priority. Those uncouth, cross-wearing primitives are not cause for curiosity. They are too Christian in a world plagued by political correctness, cultural relativism and a false conception fo the Middle East as an Arab Muslim preserve.”

Documenting attacks on Near Eastern minorities is not fashionable, Salameh said, because it is viewed as being anti-Arab and anti-Muslim and part of a Western attempt to divide a cultural and linguistic monolith. If this thinking were applied to North America, no one would talk about the plight or fate of Native Americans because it would be regarded as subversive to the Anglo-European paradigm.

“Middle Eastern minorities, Christians and Jews, are the native Americans of the Middle East,” Salameh said. “The dominant Arab-Muslim culture is indeed the colonizing intruder culture here.”

Richard Landes, associate professor of history at Boston University and author of Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of Millenial Experience reported that Islamists have worked assiduously to disarm Westerners  by engaging in cognitive warfare against democracies. This cognitive warfare is pursued, Landes explained, by using self-criticism and concern for the other to undermine the ability of democracies to defend themselves. “The purpose of cognitive warfare is to turn your own people into patriots and your enemies into pacifists,” Landes said.

This strategy has had “staggering success” over the past few years, he said. The success is due to “an unholy marriage between pre-modern sadism and post modern masochism,” Landes said.

“The pre-moderns accuse us of the most vicious things in the world and we say, ‘You’re right, I’m sorry,” Landes joked.

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  • ramez

    the situation is more dire than you think we may not be persecuted but we never feel safe and its not going to improve its not that we are quite even if we speak out who will listen they claim to be open minded but thats all bullshit its a shariah oriented country and there is the possibility that we will be killed by Islamists Christians will cease to exist in the middle east unless something is done its not that we don’t want to uphold our rights its that we live in constant fear its not safe here for us any more and my family lived here for over 2000 years

  • wolfy ghalkhani

    I write this with a very heavy heart, but based on what I have seen in major US cities we have already submitted. The Muslim is dangerous, full of hate and always ready to fight. he never ever backs down. He sticks by his principles, traditions and beliefs no matter how preverted and attacks anyone who dares to say anything against him or his religion. The Christian is quite, the opposite- weak, submissive, self mutaliating and disloyal. Of course,not all Christians but enough to make a difference. Christians are willing to attack each other but when it comes to fighting off a common enemy-Islam- they run like scared dogs with their tales in between their legs- all of this in the name of political correctnes. Its like a page out of “Camp of the saints”.

  • Warnings Not Heeded

    Years ago I warned a Christian organisation that they should evacuate places like Egypt and the gentleman I spoke too clearly didn’t understand that their efforts to support Christian rights in the Islamist world are doomed to failure. If you care about Christian rights you need to help Christians go to countries that are not run by supremacists. I used to care much more about this issue but as so many Arab Christians are anti-semites I no longer think they deserve our efforts to help them. While they remain in Arab worlds they serve as a kind of barometer showing the degree of extremism in each country. We can’t do the true test with Jews because so many Middle Eastern countries have already purged their ancient Jewish populations from their borders and from existence already.

    • david

      There are Middle Eastern Christians and there are Middle Eastern Christians. You’re right. Arab Christians are, for the most part, anti-Semitic and I also don’t care what happens to them. But Copts and Maronites and Assyrians are not Arab. An overwhelming majority of them are not anti-Semites and they sympathize with Israel. Moving them out of their Arab-occupied homelands is like moving the Native Americans out of theirs. Actually, many American tribes were, and it didn’t turn out too good for them.

  • terry staub

    I sometimes wonder if the American controversy separating the attackers of Christianity, and freedoms of religion, does not jade American foeriegn policy. Certainly we can bear the argument made to oppress religion and civil liberties in the USA. We have the luxury of inheriting a system that remains, at this time, mechanisms that place a higher degree of reliance on dialogue and protects freedoms to express and state ones opinions and faith. Unfortunately, that stops at the borders, and those who hold malevolence for Christianity in this country where Christianity is prevalent they advocate the enemy’s of Christianity abroad. I have to confess I believe it is part of the Obama Islamist toelrance governing this administrations policies, unless you have experienced dhimmitude abroad you can not fathom it. There is a lot we can do to help the victims of Shariah Law governments and victims of Islamic bigotry in this country simply by exposing it for what it is. Great conference feed back, great work being done G-d bless them..

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