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January 5, 2011

The West and the Christians of the Arab World

I am dump founded by calls from Italy, France and other European countries, and now the US expressing concerns about “attacks” against Christians in the Middle East. Certainly the bombing of the Coptic Church in Egypt or assaults against the church in Iraq earlier should be condemned and should not be tolerated by any Arab, Muslim or Christian. The Christians of Iraq or Egypt are indigenous people who belong to their land as much as anyone from any other creed or religion.

Hitherto, I seriously question the sudden “concern” of Western powers over the safety of Christians in the so called Middle East. The West refers to the Middle East when they really mean the Arab world more or less. For the term Middle East simply has no historical significance and it does not satisfy any true hypsometrical or terrestrial positioning on earth. The region is not in the middle, east or near any significant physical bearing on the planet. The name was likely bestowed by the British imperial office in India whereby the region between India and Britain became to symbolize the middle of the east, or near to the east of England, where India became the east and the area beyond became the Far East. It is just another colonial terminology.

Going back to the “concerns” over native Christians in the Arab world, Iraqi Christians for example lived in peace and were prosperous until the American occupation of the country; they played an important role in building their country and joined their fellow Iraqis in the running of the nation. Hostilities against Christians were never heard of for centuries in Iraq, until recent years. The targeting of Christians in Iraq is analogous to targeting fellow Iraqi Muslims by radical factions mushroomed in the country following the occupation of Iraq. These factions were a direct byproduct of the occupation and the chaotic conditions created by then American Administrator, Bremer.

It is fair to say that more Muslim Shia or Sunni places of worship were assaulted after 2003 (American invasion) than were Christian churches. This is a statement of fact and is not meant to belittle the seriousness of attacks against Christian churches in Iraq or Egypt. But no one should also ignore that the radicalization created following the occupation is the main impetuous for these attacks. I dare to say that elements within the occupation forces may have played a direct or indirect role in promoting the hostility between religions and sects to disintegrate the occupied community. Under these conditions, sectarian security takes precedence over the nation survival, hence diverting attention from occupying forces to feigned local enmities. The incident in Egypt is a spell over of the regional hostility injected following the occupation of Iraq.

Another issue, the Western professed concerns for “some” Christians can be detrimental to their status in the Arab World, for this will portray Christians as outsiders or even worse as agents for outside powers; intentionally or unintentionally inviting outside opportunistic powers such as Israel to exploit the concocted tension by bringing it to an open conflict.  

Israel has never shied away from its desire to creating a sectarian division within the Arab word. This was documented in memoirs by the first Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion and Israeli Foreign minister Sharett since the early 1950s.

But why is the West suddenly concerned with the wellbeing of Christians in the Arab world?

Why weren’t they concerned with the interests of Palestinian Christians for the last 62 years?  Today, a Palestinian Christian from Gaza can’t drive less than 50 miles to visit the Church of Nativity on Christmas Eve, or a Christian from Bethlehem can’t drive less than 10 miles to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.   

Aren’t Christians in the holy land representing the only uninterrupted Christian presence in Palestine since the days when Jesus roamed the alleys of old Jerusalem? Ignoring the suffering of Palestinian Christians by Western powers, for 62 years, belie their current concerns with Christians in the Arab World.