Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Christians Emigrating

What with the Pope wandering around the Holy Land, the New York Times offers a recap on the story of the Christian Arabs in the Middle East: There are hardly any left. All across the Arab world, Christian Arabs were often more modern, better educated and more affluent than their Muslim neighbors, all of which made it easier to emigrate. Once they began to do so, there were also communities of them outside the Arab world to which it was then easier to immigrate. Also, being Christians, it was often comparatively easy to put down new roots.

It might also be useful to mention that the Muslim world has less and less patience for minorities, even if they're Arabic-speaking, ethnically Arab and have been there for thousands of years, in many cases longer than some Muslims who arrived in various waves starting in the 7th century. So there's a push and pull dynamic.

None of this is new, of course; it's an old and worn story. Still, it's worth repeating, if only because quite often people note the diminishing Christian-Palestinian population and chalk it up as yet another crime of Zionism.


Morey Altman said...

Seth Frantzman has a good article on the subject over atJpost:

Some truths about Palestinian Christians

Derick Schilling said...

I recall reading somewhere in the past few years that Israel is the only state in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Does any one know if this is true?

Morey Altman said...

That's my understanding as well. I think hard figures are probably difficult to come by since Arab countries don't advertise that Christians are leaving in droves.

According to Abd Al-Nasser Al-Najjar, columnist for the Palestinian daily, Al-Ayyam. (MEMRI translation, Oct. 25, 2008):

Christians are being persecuted not only in Iraq, but in most Arab countries, regardless of their numbers there. They are subjected to every possible kind of discrimination, as well as expulsion. The problem is that it is not only Arab officials who are remaining silent [in the face of these crimes] - [they do so] because their primitive mentality is centered on the cult of the ruler - but, alarmingly, so are Arab intellectuals, the elites, non-government organizations, and leaders of the private sector. All these groups look on at these unprecedented [acts of] folly without apprehending the danger with which these crimes are fraught. …

"Furthermore, there has been an attempt to marginalize Christian culture in Palestine, even though it is rich and deeply rooted [there]. This began with [accusations] of unbelief [against Christians] - a move that ultimately harmed Palestinian society as a whole...

"Despite all the injustices [against the Christians], no one has seen or heard of any constructive action to curb it and to [defend] the Christians' rights - whether by the elites, by any of the three branches (executive, legislative, and judiciary), by non-government organizations, or even by the political factions themselves. [Such action should have been forthcoming] not out of kindness and compassion, but [due to] regarding Palestinian Christians as indigenous to this land, and [therefore] no different from us, with the same rights and obligations [as Muslims].

Nobody said...

Bat Ye'or has written a wonderful book on this topic called The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam.