CHRISTIAN ARABS IN UNPRECEDENTED DANGER.
"Christians, natives of Arab countries, are escaping their countries of origin. This is a common statement nowadays everywhere and it is correct one hundred percent. Statistics show that a large number of them have emigrated to safer countries for them and for their children, like the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. The reason is the harassment to which they are subjected to by government agencies on the one hand and extremist groups on the other hand in countries they have inhabited for thousands of years...
"The Christians have lived in the territory currently referred to as [the Arab countries] for centuries alongside other religious groups, and particularly with Muslims who shared with them the afflictions of life. But the Christians have lost their partners for many reasons, including religious extremism among some Muslims, the demographic increases out of religious reasons, and the acts of discrimination, coercion, and individual and collective expulsion of Christians, and the pressures placed upon them even when they were serving their countries. There are many examples of that in Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt, and other countries.
"Approximately 4 million Lebanese Christians have emigrated from their country as a result of the pressures placed upon them by others. About half a million Iraqi Christians have left their country for the same reasons... The situation gets worse today because of the discrimination by salafi [Islamic fundamentalist] extremists. In Palestine, the Christians are becoming almost extinct as a result of the control of extremist Muslims on the Palestinian issue and the marginalization of the role of the Christians, apart from the negative impact of the Intifada, which is led by Islamist organizations, on the Christians of Palestine. With regard to Christians in Egypt, the Copts, what happened and is happening to them equally on the part of the state and the Islamists will suffice to fill pages of books and newspapers to explain the coercion, discrimination and persecution. What is happening in Algeria, Mauritania, Somalia, and others is too long to explain.
"This situation is also reflected in non-Arab [Muslim] countries. In Islamic countries like Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria, Christians suffer from persecution. In Pakistan, Islamist [spiritual leaders] have issued a fatwa [religious opinion] permitting the killing of two Christians for every Muslim killed by the American attacks in Afghanistan, as though the Americans represent Christianity in the world. In other countries they [Christians] live in fear, under the shadow of threat, and face a growing cycle of assaults whenever the United States and its allies carry out a military operation against any country.
"Christians are afraid of what might happen to them in these countries. The situation is quite critical and requires urgent attention. It is difficult for us to imagine any other time in which the Christians have felt a greater danger than the danger they feel today in these countries..."
Columnist Majid Aziza Al-Zaman (Iraq & London), September 14, 2004.
The Christian world is increasingly afraid of the virtual disappearance of their communities in the Holy Land, Moti Levy, Christian and Arab affairs adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, said Wednesday.
"The ever-dwindling numbers of Christians living in the Holy Land in general and in Jerusalem [in particular] is cause for concern in the Christian world that the Christian communities here will disappear," the mayor's newly appointed adviser for religious communities in Israel told The Jerusalem Post.
About 10,000 Christians live in Jerusalem, a city with nearly 700,000 residents, he said. Though small in number, the Christian community does not view itself as a minority, because of the strong backing it receives from the Christian world as well as the guarantees of freedom of religion and worship afforded by the government, Levy said.
Many, however, who live in Muslim areas of east Jerusalem, feel unwanted, Levy said. He noted that the situation was even more severe for Christians living in Palestinian Authority-ruled areas of the West Bank, such as the once-predominantly Christian city of Bethlehem, which has seen a mass exodus of Christians.
Levy stressed that mutual respect and tolerance were crucial – and often sorely missing – among all faiths in the capital, noting the recent case of a Jewish yeshiva student spitting at a procession of Armenian clergymen in the Old City.
While the number of Christian residents in Israel continues to drop, he attributed the growth of the evangelical Christian community around the world to the religious challenge posed by Islamic fundamentalism.
Levy, 56, is a seasoned diplomat who, as a history major at the Hebrew University a quarter of a century ago, studied the rise of monastic orders in the emerging medieval cities in Europe. He said that Islamic fundamentalism poses a religious challenge that should be addressed, as is evangelical Christianity.
Ties between Israeli officials and evangelical Christian leaders around the world are burgeoning. The Christian groups' firm and hardcore belief in the Bible, specifically the return of the Jews to the Holy Land – a move they feel heralds the coming of the Messiah – makes them some of Israel's most outspoken and solid supporters.
In contrast to Jerusalem's Haredi mayor, who has shied away from direct contact with evangelical Christian leaders, Levy said that, generally speaking, it was "a mistake" for Israel to reject overtures of friendship, especially during a time of international isolation.
But in line with his new boss's outlook, Levy said those evangelicals who conduct missionary activity in Israel should be subject to the full force of the law, which bars such activity.
Levy, who does not speak Arabic, said it was essential for the city to provide all its residents with basic services, but conceded that it was unrealistic to expect an equal balance of services between the city's Jewish and Arab residents, since the latter are not represented in City Hall because they boycott municipal elections.
Their political future still in doubt, Jerusalem's 230,000 Arab residents have long complained of an inequality in services compared to Jewish neighborhoods.
ETGAR LEFKOVITS, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 11, 2004 21:57
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