Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christians in the Middle East - how are they treated?

Two stories about Christians in the Middle East have been in the news. And the stories are opposites of each other because in one, it's Muslims who are making life hell for Christians, and in the other, cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians makes for a merrier Christmas.

The first, from The New York Times, Traumatized Iraqi Christians Lie Low for Christmas, paints a pale portrait of a Christian community in decline.

As they gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the congregation here first contemplated death, represented by a spare Christmas tree decked with paper stars, each bearing a photograph of a member of a nearby church killed in a siege by Islamic militants in October.

The congregants on Friday night were fewer than 100, in a sanctuary built for four or five times as many. But they were determined. This year, even more than in the past, Iraqi’s dwindling Christian minority had reasons to stay home for Christmas.

Though the exact size of Iraq’s Christian population is unclear, by some estimates it has fallen to about 500,000 from a high of 1.4 million before the American-led invasion of 2003. Iraq’s total population is about 30 million.
Before you blame the 2003 invasion as the cause of Christian's plight, let's remember this--the only thing that protected Christians in Iraq was the dictator Saddam Hussein. It was in his interest to do so to give truth to the Muslim claim that Christians are always welcome in Muslim lands.

With murderous attacks as the basis for the declining Christian population, I think we see the true face of Islamism in its relationship to non-believers.

Contrast this story with this one coming via the Associated Press from Bethlehem. Bethlehem celebrates merriest Christmas in years.

The traditional birthplace of Jesus is celebrating its merriest Christmas in years, as tens of thousands of tourists thronged Bethlehem on Friday for the annual holiday festivities in this biblical West Bank town.

Officials said the turnout was shaping up to be the largest since 2000. Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in
Israeli-Palestinian violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to the holiday cheer.

Israelis are not going to take a back seat to anyone when it comes to protecting its citizens and tourists, so quiet translates into a Christian holiday that the "good old City" [hats off to Dickens] hasn't seen in a number of years. Shouldn't Palestinians be encouraged by this?

See this post by Jewish Virtual Library on the lives of Israel's Christian community-- Israel and its Christian citizens.

Well, that's what I think.

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