Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh on European and Muslim Concern for the Plight of Christians

Arabic original here.

Their Concern about Us Terrifies Us

For a long time there has been concern about Middle Eastern Christians. Since the rise of Islam until the present day, through all the countries that have ruled these lands, there has been concern about Middle Eastern Christians. This concern will remain so long as a single Christian treads the land of this Middle East. But what a difference there is between one kind of concern and another! The concern of Middle Eastern Christians is not the concern of Europeans, which has various causes and is treated differently in its roots. Europeans' anxiety about Middle Eastern Christians cannot be isolated from their own interests and the necessity of preserving something that can be invoked in order to gain a foothold in the conflicts between nations for this region's wealth.

What has France-- and by extention Europe-- done so that the Christians of Palestine, Iraq, and Syria can remain in thier homelands? Have we not heard some circles in Europe encouraging them to leave and preparing to lodge them in the countries of emigration? We know that this is nothing new, as we still have the example of the Armenian Genocide, the flight of the Greeks from western Turkey, the Syriac Christians from Mardin and Diyarbakr, and the Orthodox of Antioch at the time of the dissolution of the Ottoman state and the rise to power by the secularist Turks, the allies of France.

On the other hand, however, it is impossible for us to accept the wooden discourse of some Islamists when they raise the issue of the Christian presence. You see them pulling out some verses from the Qur'an and some reports and accounts from history that talk about Islam's tolerance and acceptance of non-Muslims in Islamic society... It's almost as though we find ourselves today faced with two Islams-- an imaginary Islam that exists in books and a completely different Islam whose news and fatwas we read in the papers and see on the TV screen.

However, the concern on the part of Europeans for Middle Eastern Christians is absolutely not reassuring at all, since countries toss aside slogans when the time comes to measure the benefit they gain from them. This European concern for the Christians of the Middle East worries us more than it reassures us. Nothing will lessen the impact of this worry apart from the sort of citizenship that can preserve for Christians, no matter how few their numbers or how small their proportions, their dignity and their feeling that their presence is vital for their partners in this hoped-for citizenship.

It remains that the anxiety of Middle Eastern Christians over their remaining in their homelands is a real anxiety. However, it has causes that are different from the goals and interests of Europeans. One of the chief causes for this anxiety is the collapse of the dream of a just state that respects total equality between all its citizens, regardless of their sect or creed.

And there is something else, the emergence of a radical Islam that only sees modernity in terms of the return to the righteous predecessors. This does not mean exculpating the moderate Islamic institutions from their serious responsibility for the growing extremism for various reasons, the most important of which is their total submissiveness to the wills of the various regimes holding power.

The crisis of Middle Eastern Christians is part of the crisis of Muslims and there is no solution to one without solving the other. The two fates are intertwined and it is only in vain that we might search for a solution outside this context. However, what is surprising is the absence of any viable Islamic response that would contribute to puting a stop to this humanitarian catastrophe that is effecting Muslims, Christians and others. The basic question is: Is the Christian presence in the Arab Middle East still necessary for Muslims? Or does the flight of Christians not matter to them?

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