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The Myth of the Christian Arabs 

In an article title "Arab Christians: An Introduction" Dr. Walid Phares correctly wrote: "For years, the term "Arab Christians" was used to categorize the Christians in the Middle East. However, the concept instead of being precisely defined was intellectually misused and politically abused." He further wrote; This denial of identity of millions of indigenous non-Arab nations can be equated to an organized ethnic cleansing.." Such tactics were also used by Turkey to undermine the identity of the Kurds and Assyrians in that country by denying their existence. During the Saddam's rule the Assyrian of Iraq were not allowed to identify themselves by that name and were counted as Arabs or Kurds in the Census. Those who worked for the government were expected to sign ethnic correction documents identifying them as Arabs.

In the following article Magdi Khalil identifies the Christians of the Middle East as Arabs contrary to all historical evidences. Another example of how in addition to being persecuted their non-Arab identity is under assault.

The Ordeal of Arab Christians

September 03, 2005

By Magdi Khalil - The recent, simultaneous bombing of six Iraqi churches reflects the seriousness of the predicament of Arab Christians, who are trapped between the hammer of terrorists groups and extremists, and the anvil of fanatic governments that skillfully manipulate the issue of religious radicalism for their own benefit, while reinforcing religious, ethnic and sectarian discrimination among their citizens.

Arab Christians live in the bosom of a racist culture that claims superiority over non-Muslims, fueled by a legacy mostly filled with violence and hatred and a history centered on strife, murder and viciousness.

Obviously, the Christians of the Middle East have lost the demographic race to the benefit of their Muslim compatriots. Their numbers continue to dwindle not just due to natural factors, but because many of them chose, or were compelled, to emigrate. Some fell victims to the constant pressures that escalated to fatal attacks. And others succumbed to the temptation to renounce their faith. The Christians of Southern Sudan were the only ones to maintain their place in that difficult contest, and though they paid a dear price, they discovered the means to achieve a realistic balance of power and face off eradication designs.

A survey of the present situation of Christians living in the Middle East demonstrates a problematic and distressing cycle: Arab Christian populations are declining, resulting in an erosion of their political power, which in turn causes their conditions to worsen and ultimately drives them out of their own homeland. This pattern is repeated throughout the region.

In Lebanon, Christians represented 50-60% of the population prior to 1975; today this percentage has declined to 25-30%. Most importantly, their political influence has severely weakened. The Lebanese emigration ministry estimates the number of emigrants at five million, more than three and a half million of which are Lebanese Christians. In the past Lebanon was known to be a safe haven for persecuted individuals who were hunted because of their religious or intellectual beliefs. Today, however, it is driving out its own children because of the Arab infringement, the Palestinian foolishness and the Syrian occupation.

The Lebanese Patriarch Nasr Allah Safir talked with LBC TV station about the Christian situation saying: "The Christians feel left out, their presence being clearly unwanted". He commented on the injustice committed against Lebanese Christians: "Lebanon was in a state of war, and it was the agreement of El Taef that put an end to this war, but only a partial and selective implementation of the agreement was carried out." The writer Mushee Maouz confirmed this statement in his book , with the following words: "Since 1943, and for many decades, the Maronite Christians of Lebanon, the Shi'a, and the elite Sunni have worked together in a diverse, legal and democratic system that was controlled by minorities. However, the shift in favor of Muslim communities, Radical Arab nationalism and military Palestinian existence, as well as the Syrian and Israeli intervention ended up alienating the Maronites and forcing them to take a defensive stance."

Iraq witnessed an increase in Christian emigration following the defeat of Sadam Hussein in the second Gulf War, as the political speech took religious tones and the economic situation continued to deteriorate. Once Baghdad fell at the hands of the Coalition troops, the fanatics came out of their dark caves and began attacking the liquor shops owned by Christians. As a result more than two hundred shops had to be closed. The attacks became more serious as they then targeted Christian women who were not veiled, Christian residences, and finally took the lives of a number of innocent Christians citizens. The final attacks targeted Christian churches during Sunday services and resulted in a large number of casualties and injuries. News reports mentioned that thousands of Iraqi Christians were forced to migrate to Syria in the aftermath of such attacks, proof enough that the so called "resistance" is nothing but another facet of the vicious terrorism that assaults innocents and ultimately seeks to ruin the new Iraqi experience.

During a few decades, the percentage of Palestinian Christians has dropped from 17% to less than 2% of the total population. The Israeli newspaper reported that entire neighborhoods in Beit Gala, Beit Lahm and Beit Sahur have been emptied of Christians because of the overwhelming Islamic tide that has turned the Palestinian cause into an Islamic issue, and the growing power of the fundamentalists who are imposing their rules and views on the Palestinian community. According to the BBC, the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem, who, in 1920, represented 50% of the population, currently represent a mere 10%.

The Palestinian , under the leadership of Islamic organizations, had a detrimental effect on the Christians who were required to pay a type of tax to those organizations to support suicide missions. News coming out of the Holy Land is disturbing. In Gaza, Christian women, in fear of being attacked by Islamic fanatics, have donned the veil. During the crisis in the Church of the Nativity, a reporter from Los Angeles managed to sneak into the church and indicated that the terrorists have raided the church, leaving nothing intact. They used the wood of the temple as fire fuel, and the pages of Bibles as toilet paper. Another incident that took place in Nazareth City, when the fanatics tried to build a mosque right in front of the Church of the Annunciation, clearly reveals the intentions of the fundamentalist organizations to establish an Islamic state on this most sacred Christian ground.

The situation of Egypt's Copts is definitely not promising, as they are now more marginalized then ever. The reports issued abroad refer to them as "an isolated minority", "a minority under siege", "a persecuted Church" and "an oppressed minority". To quote Mushee Maouz: "The Copts' participation in political life is minimal. The peaceful integration of the Copts into their society started in the middle of the 19th Century, but was regularly interrupted by the militant Islamic movement that disconcerted the Copts and created tensions between Muslims and Christians. The Copts continued to swing back and forth between integration and rejection throughout the 20th Century, and isolation became the common pattern under the rule of autocratic regimes." This dismal situation propelled a million and half Christians to emigrate to the United States, Europe and Australia. The exact number of the Christian minority living in Egypt remains a well guarded government secret.

Of all the Arab regimes, the Syrian and Jordanian regimes are deemed the best in their dealings with Christian citizens. Nevertheless, the Islamist movement and the deteriorating economic situation have badly affected the Christians in these two countries. Since the events of September 11, tensions are running high in the region, and hatred towards all that is related to the West is growing almost to the point of triggering a collision between the East and West. To quote the British reporter Martin Buckley: "The Christians in Jordan feel that they are being pushed into a difficult corner, either to belong to the Western World or to the Arab World." Growing suspicions surround the Christians, falsely accusing them of being "a fifth column" or an "inside enemy" - another example of a prevalent mindset that constantly casts doubts about the Christians' loyalty and patriotism. It seems that Christians are sadly destined to pay the price whenever tensions or conflicts arise between the Arab World and the West.

Throughout the ages of Arab invasion and Ottoman occupation, Christians of the Middle East: the Copts, Armenians, Syrians, Maronites, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Aramaeans have suffered from persecution along with other minorities like the Shi'a, Kurds and Druz. Their situation improved, however, when the modern state was founded after the collapse of the Ottoman rule and at the onset of Western colonization, becoming more engaged in their societies in response to the emergent concept of citizenship. Unfortunately, at the escalation of militant regimes and fascist religious movements, a relapse occurred costing the minorities most of their justly earned citizenship rights.

The bleak situation of the Christian Arabs has caught the attention of honorable men who chose to confront the sinister tide that has overtaken the region, and some of them paid dearly for their courage such as Dr. Farag Fouda and Prof. Saad Eddin Ibrahim; the former who was assassinated in 1991, and the latter who was jailed during 2000-2003.

A number of Arabic writers have recently produced candid articles and other publications calling attention to the ordeal of Arab Christians.

Saudi Prince Talal Ben Abdelaziz wrote an article entitled "The Survival of Christian Arabs", in , a Lebanese newspaper, stating the following: "The Christian Arabs' situation is the product of an environment overwhelmed by fanaticism and a violence level which can trigger disasters of historical proportions, and, most of all, the product of an environment strongly disposed to eliminate the different other. The continued existence of the Christian Arabs in their homelands will reinforce the foundations of the modern state, the cultural diversity and democracy, and put an end to the continuous loss of scientific, intellectual and cultural abilities in our region. Their emigration is a mighty blow that will prove detrimental to our future."

Mr. Muhammad Hasanayn Haykal wrote the following words in the magazine entitled : "I personally feel, as others certainly do, that if we do not address the issue of Christian emigration, if we continue to overlook it or neglect it on purpose, then we will face an Arab scene that will not just be different from the current one, but one that would have definitely lost part of its assets on a human and cultural level. It would be such a loss if the Eastern Christians leave believing that there is no future for them or their children here, Islam would then be left alone in the East, with only the company of Zionist Judaism - and most specifically that of Israel."

As for Mr. Galal Amin, he wrote the following enlightening words: "Evidently, the issue of Muslims and Copts is not a religious issue, it stirs up all our issues: education, freedom, rational thinking, justice, ethics and development. If this argument is valid, then it is obvious that if we want to see Muslims freed, we need to free the Copts first".

Mr. Tarek Heggy wrote the following comment: "Progress and modernization are infectious! And it is up to the minorities of the Middle East to pass on these notions into our region".

There were many other inspiring words, in addition to a significant visit from Pope John Paul II, who wished to support and encourage the Middle East Christians. However, no matter how important the words and visits are, neither of them is capable of achieving significant results. Only when the foundations of the modern state are firmly set in place, can we dare hope that this situation will change. Democracy, liberty and citizenship - the basics of a modern state - were the factors that initiated the integration of Christians within their societies in the first half of the last century; and it was the absence of these factors during the second half of the last century that sent them back into the dark ages of isolation and persecution, where they still abide.

Magdy Khalil is an Egyptian writer and analyst residing in the USA. You can contact him at:



Who are the Christians of Iraq?

The Assyrian Democratic Organization Rejects Iraq's Constitution 9, 4, 05

The Ordeal of the Christians in Arab countries 9, 3, 05

"Arab Christians"? Not in My View  8, 31, 05

Emotional Funeral for Assyrian Murdered By Kurds in Iraq 8, 31, 05 

Risking it all for a song 8, 31, 05

Iraq's draft constitution and the ChaldoAssyrians 8, 30, 05

Kurdish Reprisal Attacks Against Assyrian Christians in Iraq  8, 27, 05

For Basra's Christians, Hussein era the good old days 8, 28, 05

Assyrian Restuarant in Chicago Reminds Iraqis of Home 8, 28. 05

Assyrians in Northern Iraq terrorized by the Kurdish Mlitia 8, 27, 05

Iraq's Proposed constitution could lead to fragmented state. 8, 27, 05

Conflicts between Kurds and the Shabak 8, 26, 05

New Iraq constitution may throw women's rights into Stone Age  8, 26, 05

Assyrians of Telesqof demonstrate against being divided in the Constitution 8, 25. 05

Assyrian Demonstrators Voice their Concern about the New Iraqi Constitution 8, 24, 05

A letter from the Rep.of Shabak in the National Assermbly  8, 24, 05

New Iraq constitution must protect Christians 8, 22, 05 

The text of the latest Proposed Iraq Constitution  8, 22, 05

Outside View: Who lost Iraq?  8, 22, 05

Iraq's Religious Minorities Concerned About Islamic Constitution 8, 22, 05  

Iraq TV's 'Cops' breaks new ground  8, 21, 05  

Young Catholics Gather in Baghdad  8, 20 05

Iraqis Squeezed Out By Kurdish Expansion, Muslim-Centric Constitution 8, 20, 05

A Memoradum from the Christians of Iraq to the Drafters of the Constitution. 8, 20, 05

Shafting Nineveh: The Fate of Iraqi Christians 8, 20, 05

Plea for Assyrian Christians and Iraqi minorities 8, 18, 05

Undemocratic aspects of the new Iraqi constitution draft 8, 17, 05

Iraqis vent rage on call-in TV after bombs kill 43 8, 17, 05

Iraq's Non-Muslims' Constitution Fears  8, 17, 05

Kurdish Gunmen Open Fire on Demonstrators in North Iraq 8, 16, 05

Their suffering continues 8, 14, 05

IRAQ: Focus on constitutional concerns 8, 14, 05

Photos form homeland  6, 14, 05

Despite Turmoil, Christians Place Faith in New Iraq 8, 13, 05 

Iraqi-American Translators: The Untold Story 8, 12, 05

Life in Ankawa 8, 12, 05

Why Torah's Hebrew script was Changed to the square Assyrian script 8, 11, 05

Assyrian Restaurant in Chicago  8, 10, 05

Speech at the Commonwealth Club of California By Fred Aprim 8, 10, 05


72nd Assyrian American National Convention   8, 09, 05

Unresolved Iraqi Constitutional Points  8, 09, 05

Information wanted for Upcoming Documentary about Iraqi women 8, 09, 05

Assyrian Objection to the Nationality Law 8, 06, 05

Iraqi Christians Remember Church Bombings One Year Later 8, 05 05

Looted history  8, 05, 05 

Book Release: Rosie Malek-Yonan's "The Crimson Field" 8, 05, 05 

Iraq Must Avoid a Rollback of Rights 8, 04, 05 

Nina Shea: Rule of law, rule of Islam  8, 4, 05

Iraqis in U.S. Won't Vote on Constitution 8, 03, 05

Bush's Global War on Christians 8, 01, 05

An Open Letter to Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I  8, 01, 05 

Democracy could struggle in Islamic Iraq  7, 30, 05

Assyrian Granny Shimmes's Contribution to Rendezvous of Civilizations 7, 29, 05

House amends funding bill to help Iraqi Christians 7, 29, 05

Iraq draft constitution fails to protect religious, human rights, USCIRF says  7, 29, 05

Iraq Seeks New Religious Policies July 28, 05 

From Lingua Franca to Endangered Language, The Legal Aspects of the Preservation of Aramaic in Iraq  7, 28, 05

A closer look at the constitution   7, 27, 05 


Ambassador signals U.S. will work to guarantee rights 7, 26, 05

Iraq Constitution May Erode Women's Rights 7, 26, 05 

Kirkuk Conflict over the Identity of a City of all Races and Religions  7, 24, 05

Religious Minorities in Iraq Worried Constitution Won't Protect Them 7, 23, 05

Iraqi Christians fear prospect of Islamic law 7, 23, 05

Four dilemmas in Iraqi Constitution  7, 23, 05

Babylon's dirty secrets: No tablet left unturned  Jluy 23, 05

Federalism can prevent Iraq civil war July 22, 05

ENOKIAN: Understanding will not fix the Middle East  July 21. 05


Iraqi Christians find safety in Syria July 19, 05

Assyrians in northern California press for inclusion  July 18, 0 5

Appeal of the Iraqi Women Movement  July 17, 05

International Meeting of Muslim Scholars July 17, 05

Turkmen position on the democratisation effort in Iraq  July 17, 05 

Request the Return of the Church in Turkey  July 17, 05

Iraq's Christians Fearful of Islamic Law July 17, 05 

As Many as 80,000 Assyrian Christians Have Fled Iraq July 16, 05


Conference on Assyriology to draw 300 scholars  July 15, 05

Iraq faith minorities fear being left out under law July 14, 05

Report to the U.K Parliament about the Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq July 13, 05

Debate in the U.K. Parliament about the State of Christians in Iraq July 12, 05  

Upcoming Press Conference in Washington D.C.: Iraq's Imperiled Minorities July 11, 05

Teaching and Broadcasting in Syriac Language  July 4, 05

Assyrian Tennis Player Wins in Wimbledon July 4. 05

Christians in Iraq face threats from all sides  July 2, 05

Philadelphia's IVC Joins 'Partners for Peace' Project with Iraq  July 2, 05

Iraqi Dam Will Obliterate Ancient Assyrian Capital July 1, 05

Converts to Christianity Ostracised By Society and Family  June 30, 05

Looting of ancient sites threatens Iraqi heritage  June, 30, 05

Turkey and its Christians, Persecution complex  June 29, 05

Assyrian representative part of Iraqi Delegation to Japan June 29, 05

An Assyrian Chaldean-Syriac Symposium in Iraq  June 28 05 

The Epic of Gilgamesh 

Stollen Art Buyers Funding Terrorists June, 24 05

Questions on constitutional RIGHTS for CHALDO-ASSYRIANS IN IRAQ in UK Parliament  June 24, 05

Evangelicals Building a Base in Iraq June 24, 05 

Turkey's discrimination against Assyrian naturalised European citizens June 24, 05 

Syria Stonewalls Prosecution of Murderers of Two Assyrians  June 21, 05

Appreciation for Iraq's Historic Heritage June 20, 05

Interview with Donny George Director of Baghdad Museum June 20, 05

Mar Delly meets Mar Dinkha in Chicago June 20, 05

Assyrian Brothers Delivering Democracy  June 20, 05

Mystery Which Shrouds Iraq's Missing Artifacts  June 19, 05

Letter to His Holiness Mar Emmanuel III Dally and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV June 16, 05

Historical references to the Assyrians and Assyria after the fall of Nineveh June 18, 05 

Why chaldean clergies undermine the future of Christians in Iraq? June 18, 05

Jordan leads hunt for Iraq's looted treasures June 16, 05 

Assyrians around the world, Fans of Assyriska June 16, 05

Iranian Bombings May be Connected with Minorities, Election.  June 15, 05

Using Mass Media to Spread the Gospel in Iran  June 15 , 2005

Dishonoring the Christian women June 12, 05

Iraq's Jihad: Past as Prologue  June 9, 05 

About the Teft of the Iraqi antiquities June 9,05

Iraqi Activists Call for A Democratic Constitution June 9, 05

The Current Situation of the Indigenous Assyrians of Iraq  June 8, 05 

A Song for Assyriska June 8 ,05  

Ancient church hosts Diyarbakr festival performances in Turkey  June 8, 05

Between Iraq and a safe place  June 8, 05

Minority groups in Iraq face tough times  June, 3, 05  

New Assyrian archeological site in northeastern Syria  June 2, 05 

Iraqi Christian Campaigns Struggle  May 31, 05 

Assyrians the Indigenous People of Iraq  May 31, 05

Picnic an Assyrian family reunion May 31, 05 

Measuring Progress in the Arab World: Check the "Christian Barometer"  May 31, 05

Liars Should Have Good Memories: Muslim Abuse A Smokescreen  May 26, 05 

US Investigating Fate of Assyrian Man Missing in Iraq  May 25, 05 

Assyrian church sees first ceremony in 25 years May 25, 05

Fleeing Iraqi Christians on road to Damascus  May 24, 05 

Murdered Assyrian American hostage not a pilot  May 24, 05  

Deadly Car Bomb Explodes Near Iraq School  May 24, 05