Middle East Christians

Britain, fearful of extending ‘preferential treatment’ to Christians, is reluctant to offer asylum to Christians fleeing persecution in Iraq. According to the UN there are approximately 2,000,000 Iraqi citizens who have fled the country, of these 30% belong to minority religious communities, most of whom are Christians. A handful of them have tried to enter Britain.

It is generally estimated that in 1991 Christians in Iraq numbered between 850,000 and 1,000,000. In 2003 that dropped to 550,000. In early 2010 it was down to 345,000. The estimated number of Christians continues to decrease, leaving an estimated 300,000 or fewer Christians in Iraq at present.

As a result of the rise of Al Qaeda and the advance of Islamist movements, the largest non-Muslim religious group in the country is at risk of disappearing after a presence of two millennia.

Mostly the Christians have fled to the neighbouring countries of Syria, Jordan and Turkey. There, because they are foreign and Christian, they are unable to find work and live in desperate poverty. Those who are in Syria face the additional fear that they are now in another Iraq, a country where Christians are caught in the crossfire between warring Islamic communities.

In Syria the indigenous Christians, nearly 2.5 million of them, tend to support President Assad. How much must you fear the alternative when you support a homicidal dictator? They live in the well grounded assumption that if Assad is replaced by a Islamic regime, lauded by the Western media, their rights as a religious minority will disappear as they have elsewhere and there will be no one to speak for them.

Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaida have launched the “ethnic cleansing of minority Christians” in Syria, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the embattled Syrian city of Homs and other areas.

At least 90 % of Christians living in Homs have fled after “fanatics” forced them to leave their homes, said Dutch aid group ‘Kerk in Nood’, or Church in Need.

Kerk in Nood added that an exodus of 50,000 people has taken place in the last six weeks. “They have fled to villages and in the mountains, sometimes as far as 50 kilometers from their homes. We have reports that Islamists ‘cleansed’ the Homs areas of Hamidiya en Bustan al-Diwan without giving them the opportunity to anything with them.”

There are even reports from the Barnabus Fund of Christians being employed as human shields by the Free Syrian Army.

Christians look elsewhere in the Middle East and can see that those who have triumphed in the supposed Arab Spring are the hard line Salafists. These fundamentalist Wahhabi Sunni’s  are much more interested in violent jihad than they are in democracy.

The results can be seen in Egypt. Post-revolutionary rules gave the parliament of Egypt the task of forming a 100 member constituent assembly. Which it did. After promising to consult widely with other parties the Islamist groups, who hold two thirds of the seats, packed the assembly with their fellow travellers. As well as excluding minorities and women it also excludes Egypt’s most prominent legal scholars and constitutional experts.  Meanwhile, the Copts, who amount to 10% of the population, have had their churches firebombed by Muslim fundamentalists who appear to operate with impunity.

In Tunisia the Salafists who work hand in glove with the ruling Ennahda party are pressing for Sharia to be the basis of the constitution of the newly ‘liberated’ country. Sahbi Atig and Habib Ellouze, two MP’s who are members of Ennahda participated in a recent rally outside the National Constituent Assembly which called for “No constitution without Sharia,” and declared that “Tunisia is neither secular nor scientific, it is an Islamic state.”

Wherever we turn in the Middle East Christians are either being persecuted or fleeing in fear of persecution. The British government, however, refuses to give sanctuary to Christians in fear of their lvies.


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