As the Copts of Egypt face heightened persecution, Paul Merkley in the Bayview Review sees the de-Christianisation of the Arab world in its proper context - a process that began with the dissolution of the Jewish community in the Arab Middle East (with thanks: Simone):
So far, only one indubitable trend has emerged in the so-called “Arab Spring” and that is towards collapse of all the political structures that were functioning before it began in January, 2012. Standing out clearly against this noisy background are two unmistakable sub-themes that have received much too little notice in our media. One is a rising level of menace against Jews, and the other is a rising level of menace against Christians.
The dissolution of the Jewish community in the Arab Middle East since 1948When the first Arab-Israeli War (Israel’s War of Independence) began in 1948 scores of Jewish communities existed across the Arab Middle East, including the Maghreb (North Africa.) Because of the refusal of “the Arab Nation” in 1947-1948 to countenance the decision of the UN for the partition of Palestine, virtually all living members of this entire body of Middle Eastern Jewry, an estimated 850,000 persons in all, were forced out by their neighbours from the lands of their birth. Between 1948 and 1954, the Jewish population in Middle Eastern and North African lands dropped to less than 50,000. The ancestors of these Jews had been resident in those lands, in some cases, for more than two millennia, and in all cases many centuries longer than the ancestors of the current Arab residents.
Most of the Jews expelled from Muslim lands after 1948 took up residence and citizenship in Israel, where they arrived destitute, having being stripped of their assets by the Muslim populations from which they fled. At once this new citizenry, exceeding in number the whole population of the Jewish State at the time of its Declaration in May, 1948, was fed and sheltered; within a short time, it was educated, and provided with employment by the Jewish State (assisted, as always, by Jews of the Diaspora.) Thus was accomplished the de-judification of the Middle East.
Christian leaders contemplate the de-judification of the Arab worldEver since those days, leaders of the communities belonging to the Middle East Council of Churches have been doing everything they can to distance themselves from the Jews and from Zionism, in the desperate hope of escaping the fate of their Jewish former-neighbours.
The decibel level of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist rhetoric coming from the Christians of the Middle East, already ear-splitting for many generations, has increased noticeably since the Arab Spring began. As just one example we note the absurd claim made in late 2011 by the Coptic Pope Shenouda III (since deceased) that all the turmoil attending the Arab Spring is the work of the Masons and the Jews, and his accompanying denunciation of those Western Christians who seek “reconciliation” with the irredeemable Jews. The Jews, the Coptic Pope explained, are “Christ-killers … because the New Testament says they are.” [See my essay, “After Saturday comes Sunday,” December 21, 2011, http://ca.mg206.mail.yahoo.com, March 28, 2013.] But most distressing of all is that leaders of the Western Churches, whether fearful of “offending” Muslims or eager to demonstrate “tolerance,” are reluctant to speak openly about persecution.
Democracy and de-Christianization on parallel pathsIt seems that most of those politicians in our part of the world who recognize the gravity of the situation still want to believe that it could be remedied by introduction of something like our practice of separation of church and state into the Middle East. There was inane speculation along this line in the first weeks of Spring, as governments of the Arab Middle East seemed to be shifting away from their traditional authoritarian basis and onto the foundation of democracy. By mid-year 2012, however, it was becoming hard to believe that the answer to the problems of theMiddle East is democracy.
When the Arab Spring was in its earliest days in Tunisia, the first fruits of democracy were already evident in Iraq, where, since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Christians have been brutally persecuted to the point that perhaps one-third of them have fled their homeland. Likewise in Afghanistan, a decade after the West overthrew the Taliban, committing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, the last open church has been destroyed, even as individual Christians are put to death under blasphemy and apostasy laws enforced by a government installed, maintained and subsidized by the West. In Tunisia, in Morocco, in Libya and in Egypt it is now clear that only Islamist parties have the broad popular support as well as the financial resources necessary to dominate the next phase – the political brokering that will determine the constitution of governments of the future. These Islamist parties make no secret of their anti-Christian agenda: it is identical to that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
A Litmus test for the Christian World: The Copts of EgyptThis unpleasant theme – the increasing persecution and imminent suffocation of Christian communities in Arab countries – has been almost entirely ignored by the secular media and is deliberately pursued only by certain Christian websites maintained not by the church denominations nor by their great ecumenical agencies but by voluntary organizations sustained by individual givings, drawing upon freelance journalists and independent researchers and sustained by voluntary contributions. [Notably, Voice of the Martyrs,http://www.persecution.com; Open Doors (http://www.opendoorsusa.org/persecution.) See also, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/topics/p/persecution.]
It is not difficult to find the fundamental reason why our media have ignored this theme. Our secular opinion elites are indifferent, at best, to the fate of Christianity; their contempt for Christianity at home is reflected in the endless journalistic excavation for proofs of sexual abuse by priests in days gone by, in vilification of the lifestyles of Christian believers, and in their witless mockery of the vocabulary of faith.
But another major reason for the general neglect of this theme of persecution of Christians in the Middle East is that these very victims of Islam’s contempt fear the consequences of antagonizing the Muslim masses among whom they must live.
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