by Rueven Berko:
On November 3, 2013, Christian figures from around the Middle East gathered in Beirut to hold an emergency meeting. Most of them came from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq, seeking to create a dynamic to improve and reinforce the defenses of Arab Christians, who are currently being persecuted by radical Islamists in their own countries.
The atmosphere at the meeting was one of extreme distress. The representatives reported that the so-called Arab Spring had led to the strengthening of violent Islamist movements which were now targeting the Christian sects in the Arab-Muslim world, especially in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. Attacks on Christians reflected the refusal to recognize other religions, especially Christianity, as having the right to exist in the Arab-Muslim world, and damaged the delicate fabric of unity, “coexistence, forgiveness and dialogue,” according to Lebanese MP Michel Aoun, that had existed until now among the various religious sects in the Arab countries.
The conference was motivated by the increasing lack of tolerance displayed by violent Islamists in their efforts to deprive the Christian sects, which until now were part of the Arab national identity, of their right to religious and physical existence in the Islamic territories of the Middle East. Syrian novelist Colette Khoury said that Syrian Christians could no longer be silent. They would no longer be the victims of the situation in Syria caused by the Islamist takeover and its political agenda. She said that the Christians in Syria would do whatever necessary to prevent the disintegration of Syria as their homeland and keep it from falling into the hands of the Islamists. She accused the United States of apathy and indifference to the fate of the Christians, who had always been a target for Islamist extermination.
In fact, the spread of Islamism throughout the Middle East has accelerated since the days of Muhammad. In the seventh century, Islamic jihad fighters overcame the Persian and Byzantine Empires, after they had exhausted one another in battle, and conquered Christian Egypt as well. The Christians remaining in the resulting Islamic Caliphate were regarded as second class citizens, dhimmis, with their rights, especially political rights, restricted and paid taxes no Muslim had to pay (jizya), retaining that status for hundreds of years.
The Crusades temporarily bolstered the position of the Christians in the Middle East, once Jerusalem had been liberated from Islamic occupation. However, the Crusader state was abandoned by its supporters after less than a century and receded into the mists of Middle Eastern history. In the 12th century Saladin defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin, effectively ending European presence, and the Christians were subsequently beaten and returned to their historic status as dhimmis, dependent on the mercies of various Islamic rulers.
Since the collapse of the Crusader state and the reconquest of the region by Islam, Christians have lived in uncertainty, in an atmosphere of hostility and discrimination and in fear of extermination, new emigrating from the Middle East in an ever-increasing tide. Coptic churches in Egypt are torched by Muslims so often it is barely reported by the news, and the Copts themselves are subjected to deadly attacks by Muslim mobs that kill the men and violate the women. The same is true of Christian communities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The artificial establishment of new states in the wake of the Ottoman Empire’s downfall of (creations of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916) was a new Christian illusion. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire led to the renewed involvement of Christians in the political life of the newly created national Arab states, which came into existence by the stroke of pen to erase the Empire’s militant Islamic base and introduce a sense of pan-Arab nationalism to protect all the local sects, religions and ethnic groups.
The recent so-called Arab Spring shattered the illusion of the Arab nation (qawmiyya) and national Arab homelands (wataniyya) and restored the runaway horses of reaction, violent extremist Islamist nationalism (ummah) and the Caliphate. Extreme Islamists decided the time was right to settle accounts with the Christians who collaborated with the secular regimes in an attempt to create a national alternative to Islamist rule and its mission to take over the world. The Christians in the West Bank, mainly in Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip, suffered a similar fate after the United States brokered an Israeli withdrawal.
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