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Christianity in the Middle East threatened with extinction

It is important and inspiring to recall once again the words of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the 3rd Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom in Washington, DC in December 2017 retain their wisdom and power:

All Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East are facing dire consequences due to the constant upheavals and disastrous war-making that have afflicted the region for a season of intolerable length.

As we declared in 2014 with our brother, His Holiness Pope Francis:

From this holy city of Jerusalem, we express our shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands. In trust we turn to the almighty and merciful God in a prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East in general. We especially pray for the Churches in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which have suffered most grievously due to recent events. We encourage all parties regardless of their religious convictions to continue to work for reconciliation and for the just recognition of peoples’ rights. We are persuaded that it is not arms, but dialogue, pardon and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.

Our appeal continues to this day, more urgent than ever.

“Christianity in the Middle East threatened with extinction,” by Martin Banks, New Europe, March 8, 2019:

Christianity, which originated in the Middle East in the 1st century AD, is now a significant minority religion in the region. In the early part of the 20th century, Christians of varying denominations once made up one-third of the complicated religious and ethnic fabric that characterises the Near East. Today, however, that number has dropped to a staggering 5% and putting the world’s largest religion at risk of becoming extinct in its spiritual homeland.

Christianity is still the second largest religion in the region with over 20 million members living mostly in Lebanon and Egypt, as well as in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Jordan.

Lebanon, which has traditionally had a highly influential Christian majority of Maronite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, continue to have a strong Christian presence with roughly 40% belonging to the various groups of Eastern Rite Catholics, as well as the large number of Greek and Armenian Orthodox, all of whom play a significant political and social role in Lebanese society. The Maronites are an Eastern Catholic church that is in full communion with the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church and are Lebanon’s largest Christian denomination and its main power broker. As a result, the country’s prime minister must always be a Maronite under the Lebanese constitution.

The Lebanese Christians are followed by their counterparts in Egypt, the populous Arab nation, in terms of size and their relative importance in society. Of Egypt’s 90 million people, 15% of the population is Christian, most of whom are Copts – an ethnoreligious group that is indigenous to Egypt.

Those relatively healthy and thriving communities are, however, exceptions in the modern-day Middle East. Unlike a century ago, the current situation sees most the centuries-old communities from the Fertile Crescent to the Levant and the steppes of Anatolia rapidly dying out if they hadn’t already met their demise….

Photo by Levi Clancy – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63484671

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