September 24, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 789

Iraqi Columnist: 'It is Difficult to Recall a Period in Which Christian Arabs Were in Greater Danger than Today'

September 24, 2004
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 789

In an article in the Iraqi daily Al-Zaman, a newspaper published simultaneously in London and Baghdad with an independent and liberal pedigree going back to the 1940s, columnist Majid Aziza highlights the plight of the Christian Arab community in the Muslim world. The following are excerpts from the column: [1]

"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…"

[1] Al-Zaman (Iraq & London), September 14, 2004.

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