Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Forgotten Brothers

People tend to assume that the Middle East is uniformly Islamic, with the only religious differences occurring between Islamic sects. We easily forget that this region is the birthplace of Christianity, and that Mideast Christians belong to some of the oldest churches in existence.

The Christian population of Iraq was 1.4 million in 1987, largely Chaldean (Catholic) and Assyrian (Church of the East). About 40% have left the country in succeeding years. Assyrian Christians were evangelizing China as early as the seventh century; they are now in danger of being wiped out in their own homeland. A number of recent insurgent Islamofascist bombings have targeted Iraqi churches.

Christians in Turkey have dwindled from 2 million to a few thousand since 1920. Father Yusuf Akbulut, an Assyrian priest, was recently arrested by the Turkish government for recognizing Turkey's Genocide against Christian Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks in an interview with a Turkish newspaper about the Armenian Genocide Resolution in the U.S. Congress. Father Yusuf has been charged with treason and will be tried on December 21st. If convicted, he may face the death penalty. A Catholic priest was shot dead just yesterday in the city of Trabzon.

Christians in Syria have declined from 30% of the population to under 10%.

The Lebanese constitution specifically states that the President must be a Maronite Catholic. In Lebanon, however, formerly a majority Christian nation, Christians now make up less than 30% of the population.

In recent years, Coptic Christians (13% of the Egyptian population) who trace their origins to Saint Mark, have been fleeing Egypt in the face of persecution.

In all the discussions we’ve heard lately about personal liberty, religious tolerance, the democratization of the Middle East, and a “place at the table” for all the various Islamic sects, has anyone in the United States government, the news media, or either political party ever shown one whit of concern for these people? In our pursuit of peace with Islam, they seem to have become non-persons, unworthy of mention in polite company, let alone of protection as members of the human race. Even the Evangelical community seems far more interested in trying to plant new churches in the Islamic world than in keeping the ones that have been there for 2,000 years from being wiped out.

We frequently pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Can we remember that “peace” doesn’t just mean waiting for the last target of Islamic rage to hit the ground as a bullet-ridden corpse? “Peace” means safety for the victims in their own homelands.