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Arab Christians: The Escape from Extremism - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Within a few days the southerners in Sudan will probably be voting for secession from the north, and then a state will be established and one of its aspects is that it will be the first Christian country in the region. Bear in mind that the Christians are not the majority of the population of the south, because the majority is a collection of subscribers to other beliefs, but the southern Christians are more numerous than the Muslims, and this makes the south a state of Christian character in its shape, and probably in its government.

The independence comes at the same time when some 14 million “Arab” Christians are facing a crisis, which is the most dangerous for their existence in a region in which they are historically the oldest inhabitants. They consider that they face particular discrimination and siege by the ideological and armed Islamist extremist groups. The Christians in Iraq today celebrate Christmas under armed protection that has been imposed on their churches after the latest massacre carried out by Al-Qaeda. The Christian Copts in Egypt recently went through a bloody confrontation, the Christians in Lebanon are in a continuous state of shrinking that increases with the rise in sectarian tension, and in Palestine; the numerical shrinking of the Christians is even more acute.

The Christians in Jordan and Syria are less exposed to problems.

Despite the fact that the encroachment upon, and in some cases the deliberate terrorism against the Arab Christians is real, it is only a part of the dilemma of the entire region. This is because the Islamist extremism directed against the Muslims themselves is greater and more programmed by these groups. The fact is that the magnitude of the targeting of the Christians, whether in Iraq, Egypt, or Sudan, is limited, whether in the address or in the practice of the extremist groups. Indeed there is a campaign against the Arab Christians, but they certainly are the victims of the comprehensive violence led by the extremists; the campaign targets first and second the other schools of thinking such as the Sunnis and the Shiites, and targets the Muslim majority that disagrees with these groups on everything.

The problem of the Arab Christian citizen is the same problem as that of the other citizen in his individual rights and unknown future. This is a general situation, and not one peculiar to a sect or group. The cure for this problem is not through building states or returning to the time of the ghetto. Also it is regrettable that there is a project of semi-collective emigration, which has become the dream of the persecuted Christian, and also the dream of many of the persecuted, poor, and youths among the Arab Muslims, who share the queues for emigration visas every morning in front of foreign consulates hoping to escape to a better world.

The Christians are a minority that is getting smaller. They live, the same as the majority, between the jaws of a pincer of oppressive regimes and terrorist organizations. In this general climate the Christians are deprived of the same things of which the rest of the citizens are deprived; it does not seem that in the near future this will be transformed into a world over which the respect of individual rights and constitutionally-protected equal citizenship prevail. This is the crisis of all and not only of the minorities.

The talk about singling the Christians out for persecution and terrorism, apart from being not true, includes a spirit of capitulation to and serving of the aims of the extremist groups by getting rid of the Arab Christians, and removing a sector that shares the land, has rights, and is a fundamental constituent of the Arab culture.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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