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Bring a Smile to a Child in Nineveh
2005 Christmas Drive

 

The Mid-East's beleaguered Christians

Dec. 15, 05

By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst

Christians are struggling to hold on in the birthplace of their faith
In the Egyptian city of Alexandria, a crowd of Muslim demonstrators tries to storm a Coptic church to protest at a play about a Muslim campaign to convert Christians.

In Iraq, the Christian middle class is emigrating in droves, fearful of the daily violence and the hostility it now encounters from Islamists.

In Saudi Arabia, churches and other places of non-Muslim worship are banned, and foreign workers who try to hold secret Christian services are jailed, flogged and often deported.

In the land of its birth, Christianity is in sad decline as the pressures of life under Israeli occupation and the growth of militant Islam push Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Being anti-Christian is a way of showing what a good Muslim you are

Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghie
Few issues are so sensitive as the position of Christians in the Middle East.

Some Christian Arabs seek to minimise the difficulties they face, either to avoid trouble or to present themselves in a patriotic light.

At the other extreme, some outsiders - for example, in the United States - exaggerate the plight of Middle East Christians, depicting them as wholly marginalised and on the verge of extinction.

A varied picture

There is no agreed figure for the number of Christians in the region.

Robert Betts, an American expert on the subject, reckons there are at most 10 million.

The largest number are in Egypt (perhaps six million). Lebanon and Syria each have over a million, with smaller communities in Iraq, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Turkey and Iran.

There are also several million Christians in southern Sudan (though not strictly part of the Middle East).

Under pressure

Middle East Christians have deep roots. And, for the most part, Muslims and Christians have long lived in peaceful coexistence.

But a number of factors are stirring up tension.


Only half a million Christians are thought to remain in Iraq
In Iraq, the rise of both Sunni and Shia Islamism, especially since the US-led invasion in 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, has helped generate a new climate of sectarianism.

Well-to-do Christians are among those who have been targeted for robberies and kidnappings.

In both Sunni and Shia areas, Christian women are forced to cover their heads.

Scores of doctors and other professionals have fled abroad.

One Iraqi Christian businessman told the BBC: "Christians started to leave in Saddam's time because of the oppression. Now they are leaving for a new reason - fear of religious persecution."

He estimates there are only half a million Christian Iraqis left in the country.

Holy Land blues

Throughout the region, secularism is in retreat and religious politics on the rise.

In the current climate, says the Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghieh, "being anti-Christian is a way of showing what a good Muslim you are".

"Christian-Muslim tensions are generally localised and intermittent," says Professor Betts.

"Egypt is the exception where there is constant tension - resentment by the Copts at being excluded from any position of power and resentment by Muslims of the Copts' clannishness and generally higher standard of living."


Tensions are constant feature of life in Egypt, say experts
In Jerusalem and the West Bank, Christian and Muslim Arabs have lived side by side for centuries.

Christians were always active in the Palestinian national movement and today one of the best-known Palestinian voices is that of Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian academic and human-rights activist.

But the rigours of life under Israeli occupation - and the rise of the militant Islamic groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad - have made many Palestinian Christians fearful.

Those with the means to do so have packed their bags and left for Europe or North America or elsewhere.

Once 15% of the Palestinian population, today Christians make up 2%.

Evangelical zeal

For Middle East Christians, the role of outsiders is sometimes problematic.

"The 'old churches' which work in Jerusalem and the West Bank (Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican) have a Palestinian flock and so tend to be pro-Palestinian," says Victoria Clark, author of Holy Fire, a book about the role of Western Christendom in the Holy Land.

In contrast, she says, the American evangelical churches, relative newcomers on the scene, are ardent supporters of Israel and Israel's retention of the occupied territories.

Though they have made few converts in the Middle East, the evangelical churches are an influential part of President Bush's political constituency in the United States.

In the current climate in the region, no-one wants to be tarred with the American brush.

"I am a nationalistic Iraqi," declares one doctor proudly. "But since the US-led invasion, other Iraqis call me a stooge because I'm a Christian.

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Ashur TV -----December 2005 Schedule

 

Who are the Christians of Iraq? 

December = Canoon Gadmaya

The Mid-East's beleaguered Christians Dec. 16, 05

Exiled Iraqi Christians Vote With Concern About Their Future Dec. 15, 05

Tension Mounting on Day of Iraqi Elections Dec. 15, 05

Iraqi Americans Cast Their Votes Dec. 14, 05

Information about Voting in Canada Dec. 14, 05

A vote for democracy 12, 14, 05

Iraqi expatriates to vote in elections, hopeful new government can end bloodshed Dec. 13, 05

Iraqi Americans Ponder Role in Homeland's Vote Dec. 12, 05

Iraqi-Americans ready for polls Dec 12, 2005  

The Latest information about Iraq's Out-of-Country Voting Dec. 12, 05

Between Iraq and a hard place, Iraqi Christians in Syria Dec. 12, 05

Half a Million Iraqi Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Syriacs) have taken refuge in Syria Dec. 11, 05

Assyrian Claims Discussed in Australian Parliament Dec. 11, 05

Iraqis here get voice in Baghdad's future Dec. 11, 05

Official Information about Iraq's out of the country voting Dec. 10, 05

Iraq's Voting in Canada Dec. 10, 05

Iraqi community to cast votes at fairgrounds in Pleasanton Dec. 9, 05

Fostering creativity in dangerous times Dec. 8, 05

Meet Miss World Canada 2005, Ramona Amiri Dec. 8. 05

IRAQ: KURDISH PRESIDENT OFFERS REFUGE TO CHRISTIANS  Dec. 8, 05

Iraq Establishes 8 Polling Centers in the U.S. 12, 8, 05

News From Iraq Dec. 8, 05

740 Stained with the blood of our Martyrs Dec. 6, 05

Kurdistan Democratic Party Stops Assyrian Group From Campaigning Dec. 6, 05

Campaign activity, insurgent violence rise in Iraq  Dec. 5, 05

Myths About the Situation in Iraq Dec. 5, 05

Competition for the best design of the Ancient Assyrian Costumes Dec. 3, 05

List of "Reported" Assyrians murdered in Iraq in 2005. Dec. 3, 05

Dylan's quest: Six-year-old needs blood matches Dec. 3, 05

Shades of voter apathy Dec, 2, 05

Holywood Tapestries Featuring Semiramis is on Auction  Dec. 2, 05

Iraq's Oily Referendum Dec. 1, 05

Iraqi Parliamentary Elections In California Dec. 1, 05

November = Tishrin II 

Burial pictures of the Two Assyrians Killed Nov. 30, 05

Two Assyrian Party Members Killed in Iraq, Two Wounded Nov. 29, 05

Iraq Election Coverage at Ashur T.V. Nov. 29, 05

Iraq's Elections Could Be 'Magnet' for Success, Adviser Says Nov. 29, 05

Assyrian Political posters for the upcoming elections Nov. 29, 05

Islamic reformers struggle to revise school textbooks Nov. 28, 05

Iraq's political-campaign season in full swing as violence continues Nov. 27, 05

The Crusades Remembered, a Different Perspective Nov. 26, 05

Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable for U.S. Pullout Nov. 25, 05

Dora:Baghdad's Neighborhood Becomes Trouble Spot Nov. 25, 05

Iraq: Election Official On Expat Voting Set Up Nov. 24, 05 

Prediction of a Better Future for Iraq Nov. 24, 05

Iraqi Kurdish leadership is more consumed with self-enrichment Nov. 23, 05

Early voting in Iraq's parliamentary election to begin December 12th  Nov. 22, 05

The Assyrian Church of the East Maintains Its Continuity Nov. 22, 05

Not all Middle Easterners are Muslim, Arab Nov. 21, 05

The Middle East Needs Lebanese Christians Nov. 21, 05

Academic Conference on Seyfo [genocide] Held in Sweden Nov. 20, 05

Anovel by Abdulsalam Nov. 20, 05 

Harbole": A documentary film Nov. 20, 05

Letter To the Hellenic Parliament  Nov. 20, 05

My Grandmother Heranus  Nov. 19, 05

Books About the Assyrians Nov. 17, 05  

A Moslem discovers the praise of Christian and Jewish scriptures in the Koran  Nov. 17, 05

Iran is behind the Badr Brigade who are accused of jailing and torturing the Sunnies Nov. 17, 05 

Democracy, the Kurdish Style.  Nov. 17, 05

Talabani Promises Pope Equality and Respect for All Religions Nov.16, 05

Assyrian Wedding Comes to Australian TV Nov. 15, 05

In Jordan, Chaldean Catholics help Iraqis Nov. 15. 05

Are you a Christian in the Middle East?  Nov. 14, 05

The Assyrian General Conference Election Platform for Iraq Nov. 12, 05

Old hotel may become home for Hurricane Katrina victims Nov. 12, 05

Iraqi leader affirms Christians' rights Nov. 11, 11, 05

Egypt's Christian-Muslim divide 11, 11, 05

Assyrian Family Attacked in Tikrit Nov. 11, 05

Ancinet Assyrian Style Citadel in Los Angeles Nov. 11, 05

Priests say Iraqi Christians now victims of extortion Nov. 08, 05

Iraq; International Religious Freedom Report 2005 Nov. 08, 05

Chaldean Synod to focus on Iraq and Liturgy Nov. 08, 05

Assyrian Killed in Kirkuk's Car Bombing Nov. 05, 05

Funeral of Grace Mgr. J. Y. Cicek Nov. 05, 05 

Witnesses Describe Ballot Fraud in Nineveh Nov. 04, 05

Chaldean synod should tackle Christian migration and evangelicals' proselytism,  11. 04, 05 

Unexpected Death of His Eminence Mor Julius Yeshu Çiçek Shocks Assyrians & the Syrian Orthodox Church Nov. 03, 05  

Three Christian schoolgirls beheaded in Indonesia Nov. 03, 05

On the trail of stolen Iraqi art Nov. 03, 05

Lost in the Sunni Triangle Leaders of Baghdad church presumed dead.  Nov. 03, 05

Who is Killing the Iraqi's and the Americans?   Nov. 02, 05

What Next in Iraq?  Nov. 02, 05

An American's View of Iraq's Assyrians  Nov. 01, 05

October = Tishrin I

New Coalitions Emerge for Parliamentary Elections in Iraq10, 31, 05

Should the U.S. Withdraw? Let the Iraqi People Decide 10, 31, 05

Those Who Voted Against Constitution Are Terrorists: Iraqi President 10, 30, 05

An Assyrian Engineer Killed by the Kurds in Kirkuk 10, 30, 05

Kurds Reclaiming Prized Territory In Northern Iraq 10, 30, 05

Dwyer: Most Iraqis want a constitution - and want U.S. troops to leave 10, 30, 05

The oldest lense 10, 28, 05

Westminster Hall debate on Iraqi Kurdistan  i.e. northern Iraq 10, 25, 05

Iraq constitution approved  10, 25, 05 

Assyrian and Babylonian medicine was surprisingly advanced 10, 24, 05 

What's in a Name? 10, 12, 05 

Draft constitution denies equal rights, say Iraq's Christians  10, 22, 05

Rejection of Iraqi Referendum Possible as Nineveh Vote Fraud Reviewed 10, 21, 05 

Rosie Malek-Yonan's Schedule of The Crimson Field Book Tour 10, 20, 05

TURKEY DECRIES the Assyro-Chaldean MONUMENT IN FRANCE 10, 20, 05

Vote Figures for Crucial Ninveh Province Don't Add Up 10, 19, 05

Iraq Constitution: Bad news for Christians  10, 19. 05

Assyrian students unite 10, 19, 05

Iraq bishops ready to seek help from Pope  10, 19, 05

Charter vote resonates with Valley Iraqis Likely passage gives many hope 10. 18. 05  

Dividing the Chaldeans from the Assyrians by the Iraqi Constitution  10, 18, 05

A monument in France dedicated to the Remembrance of Assyro-Chaldean massacres by the Ottoman Turks. 10, 17, 05

Swing state' of Nineveh may be moving in favour of constitution 10, 15, 05 

Iraq votes for the Constitution and for its future 10, 14, 05

Forgotten victims - Iraqi Christians who speak the language of Jesus  10, 14, 05

Mgr Sako: people in Kirkuk have not read the constitution but will vote  10,13, 05

Terrorism strikes all Iraqis, says Patriarch 10, 13, 05

Assyriska a national football team without a country  10, 12, 05

Referendum: 'Yes' in Kurdistan and Southern cities and 'No' in Kirkuk, al Anbar and Diala 10, 12, 05

Chaos depriving Towns from Voting - The Minorities Fear the Domination of Islamic Parties10, 12, 05 

Bas-reliefs of winged goddesses discovered in western Iran 10, 12, 05

Immigration of Iraqi Chaldeans Abroad Passes through Jordan 10, 12, 05

Baghdadis tell their stories  10, 12, 05

Assyrialogist Henry Saggs Dies at 84 10, 10, 05

Letter by Ms. Jacqueline Zomaya The Assyrian representative to the Iraqi National Assembly 10, 10, 05

The Kurds are "cleansing" their domain ­ and provoking a civil war in Iraq  10, 09, 05

Nestorian label "imposed unjustly upon the Assyrians"  10, 08, 05

Iran's Assyrian MP-Felicitation to the Supreme Leader  10, 8, 05

Syriac Manuscripts from the Vatican Library: Volume 1 10, 08, 05

Sunnis Threaten Referendum Boycott if Rules Not Changed  10, 05, 05

Helping the Iraqi refugees in Jordan  10, 04, 05

Final Draft of Iraqi Constitution  10, 03, 05

Two More Assyrian Children Orphaned  10, 02, 05

Discoveries of the Assyrian antiquities in Syria 10, 01, 05 

Sectarian Strife tears apart Baghdad's Neighborhoods 10, 01, 05

 

 

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