Friday, October 22, 2010

Jacques Julliard on the Persecution of Christians

The original essay, published in French in Le Nouvel Observateur, can be found here.

La chasse aux chrétiens

Christianity has become by far the most persecuted religion. But the West keeps its head in the sand.

It is nothing. Nothing but Christians being slaughtered. Religious communities being persecuted. Where is this happening? A bit everywhere. In India, in Bangladesh, in China, in Vietnam, in Indonesia, in North Korea. And especially in Muslim countries. Not only in Saudi Arabia, where the practice of Christianity is punishable by death, but also in Egypt, in Turkey, in Algeria. In the world today, Christianity is by far the most persecuted religion.

It is in the Middle East, the same place where Christianity was born, that the situation is most serious. In Turkey, the Christian communities, which are the oldest communities predating Islam, are threatened with extinction. In Egypt (Copts), in Lebanon (Maronites in particular), they fold back on themselves or emigrate to the West. In Iraq, the war has thrust Christians into troubles. Almost 2000 killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, notably towards the more welcoming Turkish Kurdistan. One can no longer keep count of the communities across the Middle East that are attacked, the religious dignitaries killed, the churches burned, people blacklisted from employment by law or de facto, to which Christians are subjected. Small-time religious genocide.

Add to this that the divisions are countless and dizzying, compared to the weakness in numbers. Of about 14 million Christians in the East, about 5 million are Catholics. The others, Orthodox, Monophysites, Nestorians, bear the mark of the immense Christological debate of the fourth and fifth centuries of our era. The Nestorians affirm the duality of persons in Christ: one divine person, the logos, one human person, Jesus. On the other hand the Monophysites affirm that the human and the divine constitute one sole nature in Christ. This is the case of the Coptic Orthodox.

For centuries, Muslims, newcomers at first and later a majority, have gotten along with Christians. So what has been going on in the past fifty years? First, the re-awakening of Islam in an aggressive and chauvinist form, as though the Middle East only belonged to Muslims. This is the Muslim Brotherhood which leads attacks against the Egyptian Copts: at Nag Hammadi, 60km from Luxor in Upper Egypt a car machine-gunned the faithful who were coming out of a Christmas mass (January 6, 2010). The toll: six dead. Through a paradox that is not obvious, the democratization of regimes reinforces Muslims’ intolerance and exclusivism: the Christians of Iraq were less threatened under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein than they are today. The despots were more often the inheritors of the traditional pluralism. In almost the entire country, Islam is now the state religion. The jihad against the west as well as the American aggression in Iraq have turned the Christians into representatives of the hated West.

During this time, the West keeps its head in the sand. For my part, having spent the better part of my life as an activist defending Muslim populations (Tunisia, Algeria, Bosnia, Darfour), I can note that every time it was necessary to do this for Christians (Lebanon, South Sudan) one can see with only a few exceptions (Bernard-Henri Lévy, Bernard Kouchner) human rights professionals shirk their duty. A new sort of cultural Yalta is being established in practice: in the East, the monopoly of a single religion which grows more and more intolerant, Islam. In the West, pluralism, tolerance, and secularism. This Yalta, like the other one, will cause a cold war, to not say even more. Thus it is necessary, without hesitation or complacent weakness, to defend the rights of the Christians of the East to exist.

1 comment:

NOCTOC said...

Thanks again for an excellent post, and now that I have found you, I would like to comment sometimes.

It is unfortunate that most people in the world think that all Arabs are Muslims and forget or don't know that many Arab countries have Christian minorities that have lived there as Christians since the first days of Christianity. Lets not forget that Islam arrived in the 7th century, and that many of these countries such as Syria and Egypt where wholly Christian, with an all ready well established Christian tradition. Egypt as well as Syria is the homeland of monasticism and asceticism with many monasteries existing before the coming of Islam
Syria is today the only country in the Middle East where Christians still feel safe, mostly because of its Alevite presidents (first father and now son) who are afraid of Islamists as much as the Christians. However, if politics change in favour of the Islamists, there will be a huge exodus of Christians from Syria as well. Lebanon, which used to be a country with a Christian majority, is fast loosing its Christian population. Today only about 30% of Lebanon's population is Christian, while it used to be 80% when France seceded the country from Syria. The future of the Copts is also bleak because the Egyptian goverment does very little to protect them, maybe being afraid of the very strong Islamist brotherhood there.
I will not mention anything about Turkey and north Cyprus which have lost almost all their Christian populations due to Turkish ethnic cleaning policies.

Thank you