Add News     Print  
Article List
Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqush
Mideast Christians: insecuriy and exile Community threatened in Iraq

NICOSIA, Aug 9, (AFP): Christianity was born in ancient Palestine and remained rooted in the wider Middle East even after its conquest by Muslim armies centuries ago, but Christians now face the insecurity of jihadist threats and many are going into exile. Here is a break-down of the situation faced by Christians in key parts of the region.

Iraq’s Christians, tens of thousands of whom were displaced after jihadists seized several northern towns Thursday, are a threatened community, and many have left the country over the past decade. After the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the country became a battleground between insurgents and foreign troops before plunging into sectarian war. The Christian community, identified with Western Crusaders from the early Middle Ages, came under attack by radical Muslims on numerous occasions. In July, thousands of Christians fled second city Mosul, seized by gunmen from the Islamic State in June, after an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay jizya (protection money) or leave on pain of death.

In Syria, which has been devastated by more than three years of civil war, Christians represent five percent of the population, or more than 22 million inhabitants. The conflict, which has killed more than 170,000 people, started with a popular revolt against ruler Bashar al-Assad. It gained in complexity with the arrival of jihadists, who seized the east and part of the north of the country, later entering into bloody confrontation with former rebel allies. Syria’s Christians have, for the most part, sought neutrality throughout the conflict, and viewed the rise of jihadists with concern. As a result, many have taken the side of Assad. Churches have been damaged or destroyed in the conflict and several Christians abducted and even murdered.

Coptic Orthodox are the largest Christian denomination in Egypt, representing 10 percent of the 85 million population, and are the biggest group in the Middle East. They have long been the target of discrimination and even deadly violence, which took on serious dimensions last summer. Dozens of churches and church properties belonging to various denominations were attacked, and some people killed, in response to perceived Coptic support for the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Christians constitute a large minority in tiny Lebanon, which even has a Christian president under a power-sharing arrangement that calls for a Sunni Muslim premier and a Shiite parliamentary speaker. Christians were once the dominant political force in the country, but their power has eroded with the growth in the number of Muslims. The Vatican-affiliated Maronites, from whom the president is chosen and who are indigenous to Syria and Lebanon, are the largest denomination. They are followed by the Greek Orthodox.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories
There are around 160,000 Israeli Christians, the vast majority of them Arabs, representing about two percent of the population. In the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, there are nearly 50,000 Christians, heirs to the first Christians, mainly based in Bethlehem and Ramallah. However, there are only 8,000 Christians in Jerusalem, compared with the 30,000 before the creation of Israel in 1948. In the Gaza Strip the number of Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox, is a tiny 1,500 out of a population of 1.8 million. They have been targeted by radical Salafist groups.

The Iranian constitution recognises the rights of some religious minorities, including Christians, but apostasy is punished by the death penalty under sharia Islamic law in force in the country

Saudi Arabia
The kingdom, which applies Wahabism, a strict Sunni version of Islam, does not permit the building of churches or the practise of the Christian faith, despite the presence of several million Christian workers, mostly Asian.

Read By: 3086
Comments: 0

You must login to add comments ...
About Us   |   RSS   |   Contact Us   |   Feedback   |   Advertise With Us