Posts Tagged ‘Assyrian Christians’

Why so few Christians among the refugees?

November 21, 2015
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.  Source: Newsweek.

The Christian community in Syria dates back to the time of St. Paul, who was converted on the road to Damascus.

Today the survival of Christianity in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries is under threat.  Syria has lost 700,000 Christians in the past five year, nearly two-thirds of its Christian population.  Iraq has lost more than a million Christians since the 2003 invasion.

The so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh) singles out Christians for beheading and rape.  It calls them “crusaders,” meaning that they are supposedly part of an age-old European invasion of the Middle East.  Yet Syria was a Christian country for centuries before Mohammad was even born.

20150327cover600x800revMany religious scholars fear for the survival of the ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.  This is something new, not a centuries-old conflict.

Christians and Muslims mostly lived together in peace during the Arab Caliphates, the Ottoman Empire and European colonial rule, and, if there was persecution, it fell short of genocide.

Despite all this, there are relatively few Christians among the Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees knocking on the doors of Europe and the United States.

An estimated 10 percent of Syria’s population is Christian, yet they constitute only 2.5 percent of the Syrian applicants for asylum in Europe.   I would have expected more, if only because, unlike with Muslims, there are no predominantly Christian nations in the Middle East region.

I don’t think this is because of intentional discrimination.   Asylum seekers are screened in refugee camps, and Middle Eastern Christians reportedly are reluctant to enter refugee camps because of persecution and abuse by Muslim refugees.

Certain American and European politicians have called for asylum of Syrian refugees to be limited to Christians. [1]

Barring refugees solely on the  basis of religion is wrong and possibly a violation of international law.  But there surely is justification for an affirmative action program for some of the world’s most persecuted people.

LINKS

The New Exodus: Christians Flee ISIS in the Middle East by Janine Di Giovanni and Conor Gaffey for Newsweek.

Syria’s Beleaguered Christians by the BBC.

Christian refugees discriminated against by US and UK governments by Harry Farley for Christianity Today.

Why So Few Syrian Christian Refugees by Jonathan Witt for The Stream.

Why the question of Christian vs. Muslim refugees has become so incredibly divisive by Michelle Boorstein for the Washington Post.

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[1]  Actually, I think it would be a fine thing if Texas, Hungary or some other place became a haven for the world’s persecuted Christians.

Kurdistan, haven of religious freedom

June 24, 2014

kurdistan_people__2007_12_20_h0m58s56Not everybody in Iraq is a Sunni Arab or a Shiite Arab.  The country is full of other religious and ethnic groups, including Assyrian Christians who’ve been in Mesopotamia longer than the Arabs, and their hope of survival is the continued semi-independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Overall, I think the invasion of Iraq was a disaster, but one good thing to come out of it was freedom for the Kurds, a valiant people who’d been fighting for independence for generations, and without terrorism against civilians.

The Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims, the same religion as the murderous I.S.I.S. militia, but their attitude toward freedom and tolerance is exactly the opposite.  And the Kurds are willing, able and armed to fight.

Military analyst Gary Brecher, who’s lived in Kurdistan, wrote:

The men and women of the [Kurdish] Pesh Merga—the Middle East’s only truly gender-neutral fighting force—are the only thing saving all the terrified, dwindling minority communities of Northern Iraq from the savagery—yeah, savagery; why lie?—of a new zombie generation of Wahhabized Arab/Sunni jihadis.  [snip]

Let me tell you, for a Sunni Kurd to say, “I have Shia friends, I have Christian friends” is about as brave and radical as it gets, short of suicide, in the Middle East. I never heard any of my Saudi students say anything remotely like it. Well, how could they?  By law, Shi’ism and Christianity are banned in the Kingdom.  So they didn’t have the opportunity, even if they’d had the mindset which they didn’t.

Something wonderful came out of the horrors of 20th century Iraq, among the Kurds of the Northern hills.  They became the only non-sectarian population in Iraq, and perhaps the only such group between Lebanon and India.

All the hill peoples, the few who’d survived Sunni pogroms, were kind to each other. When violence came into the hills, it came from the plains to the South.

All the vulnerable minorities in the Northern hills had been hit by waves of violence from the Sunni majority to the south: the few remaining Assyrian Christians who held out in little mountain towns like Zakho, a pitiful remnant of the genocides perpetrated against them by the Ottomans, and then by Sunni militias in the 1930s; the Turcoman, who are Sunni but Turkish-speaking—in other words, not Arab—and don’t you ever doubt that Arab chauvinism has a HUGE part in what passes for Sunni jihadism.

via The War Nerd:  PandoDaily.

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