July 24, 2014 - 14:13 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The past decade has been catastrophic for the Arab world's beleaguered 12 million strong Christian minority, the Guardian says.
In Egypt revolution and counter-revolution have been accompanied by a series of anti-Copt riots, killings and church burnings. In Gaza and the West Bank Palestinian Christians are emigrating en masse as they find themselves uncomfortably caught between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pro-settler government and their increasingly radicalized Sunni neighbors.
In Syria most of the violence is along the Sunni-Alawite fault line, but stories of rape and murder directed at the Christian minority, who used to make up around 10% of the population, have emerged. Many have already fled to camps in Lebanon, Turkey or Jordan; the ancient Armenian community of Aleppo is moving to Yerevan.
The worst affected areas of Syria are of course those controlled by ISIS. Last weekend it issued a decree offering the dwindling Christian population of eastern Syria and northern Iraq a choice: convert to Islam or pay a special religious levy – the jizya. If they did not comply, "there is nothing to give them but the sword".
The passing of the deadline, the Guardian notes, led to possibly the largest exodus of Middle Eastern Christians since the Armenian Genocide, with the entire Christian community of Mosul heading off towards Kirkuk and the relative religious tolerance of the Kurdish zone.
Now almost everywhere Arab Christians are leaving. In the past decade maybe a quarter have made new lives in Europe, Australia and America. According to Professor Kamal Salibi, they are simply exhausted: "There is a feeling of fin de race among Christians all over the Middle East. Now they just want to go somewhere else, make some money and relax. Each time a Christian goes, no other Christian comes to fill his place and that is a very bad thing for the Arab world. It is Christian Arabs who keep the Arab world 'Arab' rather than 'Muslim'."
If the Islamic state proclaimed by ISIS turns into a permanent, Christian-free zone, it could signal the demise not just of an important part of the Arab Christian realm but also of the secular Arab nationalism Christians helped create, the Guardian says.