After all, as one Muslim opines, Christians fleeing the Muslim world is simply bad PR for Muslims. “Christian Middle East exodus worries churches,” by Carol Glatz for the Catholic News Service, March 6:
VATICAN CITY “” The need to find ways to stop the slow, yet steady departure of Christians from the Middle East has come into greater focus recently.
Pope Benedict urged the dwindling Arab Christian minority to patiently persist in its struggle to survive and hold onto its religious and cultural identity when he met with bishops from Iraq, Iran and Turkey who were in Rome to report on their dioceses early this year.
And he will have many public occasions to reach out and appeal directly to Christians with his proposed visit to the Holy Land May 8-15.
The Christian exodus has become so severe that Iraqi bishops called on the pope to convene a regional synod to address the problem.
In the meantime, conferences were held in Detroit, Lebanon and Rome in February to underline the important role Christians play in Muslim-majority nations.
The Rome gathering organized by the Sant”Egidio Community brought together Christian and Muslim scholars and religious leaders from the Middle East to discuss the value and contribution of the Eastern Christian churches in Arab nations.
One element that emerged from the meeting is that Christians don’t belong in the Middle East only because they”ve been there since the time of Jesus and are legitimate citizens of Arab nations.
The Christian culture and mindset contributes to the building of a more peaceful, democratic nation, many people said.
Some said a strong Christian presence could help moderate Muslims counter the rising wave of Islamic extremism sweeping across the region.
Mohammed Sammak, political adviser to Lebanon’s grand mufti, said, “The fewer Christians there are, the more (Islamic) fundamentalism rises,” fills the void and gains the upper hand.
Or, more sequentially, the more Islamic fundamentalism, the fewer Christians there are.
“That is why as a Muslim, I am opposed” to Christians emigrating.
For Christians to disappear from the Middle East would be like “pulling out the threads of a cloth” so that the whole social fabric risks unraveling and dying, Sammak said.
Another danger, he said, is that if Muslim-majority nations do nothing to protect and encourage their Christian minorities to stay, then North American and European countries will think that Islam does not accept or respect Christianity.
If people living abroad see Muslims are unable to live with Christians even when they share the same culture, language and citizenship, he said, “then they”ll think, “˜So how can we Europeans live with Muslims.–
Good observation. In other words, Christians should stay in the Middle East — and continue suffering persecution, discrimination, and humiliation — all so Muslims don’t look bad in the eyes of the world at large.
Tensions and restrictions against Muslims living in or emigrating to Europe will increase as tensions and violence against Christians continue in the Middle East and vice versa, Sammak predicted.[…]
Archbishop Sleiman told reporters that while economic and political problems are major reasons for leaving, Christians in countries like Iraq and the Palestinian territories leave out of “fear of Islamic fundamentalism and being legally discriminated against” in an Islamic republic or under Shariah, the religiously based law of Islam…