You can usually gauge the health of a society by taking measure of two social conditions: how the society treats women, and how it treats religious or ethnic minorities. The Muslim world’s failing with regard to the first condition is well-known, but its inability to successfully integrate with a sizeable Christian Arab community has received far less publicity. As author Magdi Khalil relates in his excellent article in the American Thinker (thanks to Scaramouche), Arab Christians are finding it more and more difficult to live in a region increasingly defined by a monolithic and resurgent Islamic fundamentalism:
The recent, simultaneous bombing of six Iraqi churches reflects the seriousness of the predicament of Arab Christians, who are trapped between the hammer of terrorists groups and extremists, and the anvil of fanatic governments that skillfully manipulate the issue of religious radicalism for their own benefit, while reinforcing religious, ethnic and sectarian discrimination among their citizens. Arab Christians live in the bosom of a racist culture that claims superiority over non-Muslims, fueled by a legacy mostly filled with violence and hatred and a history centered on strife, murder and viciousness.
Obviously, the Christians of the Middle East have lost the demographic race to the benefit of their Muslim compatriots. Their numbers continue to dwindle not just due to natural factors, but because many of them chose, or were compelled, to emigrate. Some fell victims to the constant pressures that escalated to fatal attacks. And others succumbed to the temptation to renounce their faith. The Christians of Southern Sudan were the only ones to maintain their place in that difficult contest, and though they paid a dear price, they discovered the means to achieve a realistic balance of power and face off eradication designs.
A survey of the present situation of Christians living in the Middle East demonstrates a problematic and distressing cycle: Arab Christian populations are declining, resulting in an erosion of their political power, which in turn causes their conditions to worsen and ultimately drives them out of their own homeland. This pattern is repeated throughout the region.
In Lebanon, Christians represented 50-60% of the population prior to 1975; today this percentage has declined to 25-30%. Most importantly, their political influence has severely weakened. The Lebanese emigration ministry estimates the number of emigrants at five million, more than three and a half million of which are Lebanese Christians. In the past Lebanon was known to be a safe haven for persecuted individuals who were hunted because of their religious or intellectual beliefs. Today, however, it is driving out its own children because of the Arab infringement, the Palestinian foolishness and the Syrian occupation.
Considering the fact that the Middle East is home to a wide-range of religious minorities – not all of them Christian – this increasing intolerance on the part of many Muslim governments could easily ignite numerous civil and ethnic conflicts in the coming years. Mr. Khalil sums up his salient argument in a haunting final paragraph.
There were many other inspiring words, in addition to a significant visit from Pope John Paul II, who wished to support and encourage the Middle East Christians. However, no matter how important the words and visits are, neither of them is capable of achieving significant results. Only when the foundations of the modern state are firmly set in place, can we dare hope that this situation will change. Democracy, liberty and citizenship – the basics of a modern state – were the factors that initiated the integration of Christians within their societies in the first half of the last century; and it was the absence of these factors during the second half of the last century that sent them back into the dark ages of isolation and persecution, where they still abide.