Saturday, October 23rd | 17 Heshvan 5782

February 18, 2020 7:56 am

Israel Is a Beacon for Religious Freedom

avatar by Rami Dabbas


Tourists walk in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Dec. 2, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Mussa Qawasma.

The Middle East of the 21st century is quickly becoming monolithic, as it sheds the religious and cultural diversity that once existed in the region. Though it gave the world all three Abrahamic religions, it is rapidly becoming the home of only one.

In recent years, the Christian population has decreased across the entire region, and in some Arab countries, the Christian component has been absent entirely:

  • In Iraq, the Christian community is dwindling and facing a torrent of hatred and violence;
  • Only thousands of Turkey’s Christians remain, while once the country was home to millions;
  • In Syria, Christians once made up a full third of the population, but today account for just 10 percent;
  • In the 1930s, Lebanon boasted a majority Christian population, whereas now they are less than a third;
  • For the first time since the 1950s, Coptic Christians are leaving Egypt in large numbers; and
  • In areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, once-large communities of Christians have now been reduced to a tiny minority.

The origins of this crisis date back to many decades ago. Ever since the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks (1914-1918), which claimed about one million lives, Middle East Christians have been seeking safer havens.

Later, during the monarchy in Iraq, a policy of revenge was implemented against Christians over their cooperation with the British during World War I. The instability surrounding the fall of the monarchy in 1958 provided a chance for many Christians to escape to the West.

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More recently, the rise of Islamist groups in Iraq has again reduced Christians to dhimmi status and subjected them to routine harassment and persecution. The result has been the same — a mass migration of Christians.

Most of the Jews were driven out of the Arab world over the past century. Now, it seems, it is the turn of the Christians. But what will the Middle East become without its ancient Christian population?

Most worrying is that this process appears to be irreversible. All of the Christian migrants that I have spoken to insist they will never return under any circumstances. Even if the security situation improves in the short term, there are no long-term guarantees for Christians in the region, and their immigration to greener pastures is likely permanent.

As always, we must point out that there remains one single country in the Middle East where Christians still live in peace and tranquility — the Jewish State of Israel.

And only in Israel can Arabs of all faiths coexist with the Jewish people, and enjoy the democratic freedoms denied them in nearly every Arab country.

Is it any wonder that while Christian communities around the region are shrinking fast, the number of Jesus’ followers in his own country of Israel is actually growing?

Rami Dabbas is a civil engineer by profession who writes for several media outlets. He is a pro-Israel advocate, peace campaigner, and political activist speaking out against terrorism.

A version of this article was originally published by Israel Today.

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