Once upon a time there were Christians in the Middle East
In the Middle East, the birthplace of the three Divine religions, most faith groups
live an introverted life under oppression. Especially Christians, who constitute only the 4% of the region today, are encountering inconceivable persecution, which is increasing day by day. Consequently, Christians have been forced to flee from the region at an accelerating pace in the last decade, reminiscent of the aftermath of WWI.
It is alarming to hear that 2015 has been the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution,” according to a human rights organization that monitors the persecution of Christians since the 1950s. As per their recent statistics, over 7,000 Christians were killed and more than 2,400 churches were damaged in 2015.
Due to the persecution, the number of Christian population has diminished dramatically in the Middle East where Christianity used to make up 20% of the religious population last century.
The most dramatic dwindle in Christian population is in Syria due to the ongoing war that caused a huge influx of refugees to the neighboring countries. Christians now amount to about 900,000 in total. Copts began leaving Egypt in significant numbers after the 1952 revolution. In Iraq there are only 500,000 Christians that remained out of the 1.5 million 10 years ago. Broadly, the Middle East Christian population has declined from 14% in 1910 to 4% today. Regrettably, religious leaders fear that Christianity might disappear in the region where it was first born 2,000 years ago.
It is worrisome to see Christians leaving their homeland because of fear of attacks, slanders or accusations. It would be a great sin to make them, who have been loyal to Jesus (peace be upon him) for 2,000 years, live an anxious life.
They are religious people who believe in the existence of God, the hereafter and should be treated with compassion and respect. Some seek to stir enmity between Christians and Muslims to wage a war between them. In reality, even though the majority of Muslims do not want to admit, it is Muslims with radical tendencies that carry out this hate propaganda in the name of Islam. As a matter of fact, these people are acting contrary to the teachings of Islam. Yet, the command of God in the Qur’an is very clear: You will find the people most affectionate to those who have faith are those who say, ‘We are Christians.’ (Qur’an, 5:82)
According to the Qur’an, Christians should be approached in a compassionate manner: “Only argue with the People of the Book in the kindest way.” (Qur’an, 29:46)
As Muslims, we should stand by Christians to ensure no radical can ever harm them. While the radicals are attacking the churches, they forget that churches are under God’s protection according to the Qur’an (22:40).
Muslims who follow the Qur’an should atone for these actions by showing them utmost compassion and respect. Muslims who misinterpret the Qur’an and think Christians should be hated should also remember the Prophet Mohammed’s (peace be upon him) relations with them.
We hope to live in harmony with our Christian neighbors just like our Prophet did. It is once again the fabricated sayings that poisoned the Muslim societies, which made the radical-minded forget how Muslims should respect and love Christians. Some of them even have come to deny the verses where Christians are praised.
A great work also falls to the non-governmental organizations and the youth. Sending messages of love, respect, and compassion towards the Christians through printed, visual and social media would be heartening for them.
We should be cognizant that our mission will not be accomplished until not one Christian left hurt in any Islamic country. We should let Christians in with confidence just like during the times of the Prophet Mohammed.