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October 6, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2551

Kuwaiti Liberal: Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is Tantamount to Ethnic Cleansing

October 6, 2009
Kuwait, The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 2551

In an article in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, liberal Kuwaiti writer and commentator Ahmad Al-Sarraf criticized the Arab countries for persecuting and discriminating against their Christian minorities. He contended that this maltreatment is tantamount to ethnic cleansing, since it often forces Christians to leave their Muslim homeland and emigrate to the West. Al-Sarraf called on the Arab countries to treat their non-Muslim residents in the same way as they expect the West to treat its Muslim minorities.

Following are excerpts from Al-Sarraf's article: [1]

Innumerable Injustices Committed against Christians inthe Middle East Are Forcing Them to Leave Their Homes

If we assess [the contribution] of Christian minorities to the culture and development of their host countries in the Arab [world], we will discover to our surprise that it invariably exceeds their percentage in the overall [population].

"In spite of this, or possibly because of it, a vast stream of Christians has for many years now been thronging out of the Middle East [towards the West]. Some left of their own accord, while others were coerced into emigrating - but all had to leave their home countries, especially Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, the occupied territories, Sudan, and even Iran.

"The only exceptions to this enforced emigration have been the [Gulf] states and North Africa: the former because their Christian population is [relatively] small, while the latter is due to its long-standing tradition of tolerance towards non-Muslim minorities. Syria can also be considered a country that, throughout history, has been tolerant of its non-Muslim residents.

"What sustained this stream of enforced emigration [of Christians from the Middle East] is the innumerable incidents of injustice to which local Christian minorities have been constantly subjected, and which in many areas have become routine. Thus, heads of [Christian] communities have been murdered; [Christian] places of worship have been set on fire; [Christian-owned] shops have been plundered; the Christians have been marginalized in their [host] societies, and their lives have been embittered - and this is only a partial list.

"These [iniquities] have prompted many [Christians] to leave their homeland, sometimes temporarily but more often for good, and to direct their steps westward, entrusting their fate to the munificence of Western countries and their citizens - which is precisely what [the anti-Christian elements] had set out to accomplish in the first place.

"What these aggressive [elements] do not realize, however, is that even when a particular religion, movement, or ethnic community is entirely annihilated, the ethnic cleansing will not stop; other ethnic communities and religions will be targeted, one by one, and ultimately large groups will attempt to annihilate one another.

"The Claim that [the Christians Living in Our Midst] Present a Danger is Nothing But Loathsome and Irrational Extremism"

"If we put Iraq aside for the present… we will find that the situation of Christians in some parts of Lebanon, in Gaza, and in Egypt is not good, and that their number is steadily decreasing. Yet despite this, a contemptible [columnist has published] a hostile article contending that Christians are about to invade and take over the East, and that the hordes of [Christian] missionaries [are advancing] at full speed. I really don't know what he is talking about.

"It is imperative to try to prevent the steady decrease in the Christian population of Arab and Muslim countries, [especially since] most of their Jewish residents emigrated in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The fewer Christians are left, the more extremist and the less accepting of the other we become, and the less able to understand the other's [position] or appreciate the conditions [in which he lives].

"The claim that [the Christians living in our midst] present a danger is nothing but loathsome and irrational extremism. Their centuries-long presence among us has not rendered us less dependent on our customs and traditions - and I say this despite of my distaste for both these notions. Our comparatively tolerant [attitudes]… have not prevented our region from becoming a breeding ground for benighted fundamentalism, which spreads outside it in all directions.

"I do not know when we will acknowledge that we are part of this world, and that just as we demand that all world countries, in particular Western countries, respect the beliefs of their Muslim citizens, enable them to practice their religion, and ensure their wellbeing - so must we act [fairly] towards non-Muslims in our midst. The extremists and boors in this wretched nation, [however,] think the exact opposite - namely, that while our coreligionists are entitled to every mark of respect, we are not obligated [to honor members of other religions] - since we alone are messengers of the true [religion]; we are right, while all the others have gone astray."

Endnote:

[1] Al-Qabas (Kuwait), August 8, 2009.

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