With Bethlehem in the forefront of Christmas celebrations, attention has been drawn on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. On Christmas Eve, for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury asserted that Christians are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world today. He singled out Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Appearing in yesterday’s Toronto Star, the following is an excerpt from columnist Dow Marmur on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East:
“Despite occasional manifestations of what some regard as discrimination, Israeli Christians are well protected compared to those in other countries in the Middle East where life has become unbearable for most of them. Thus this Christmas Eve the terrorist organization Al Qaeda carried out three bomb attacks on Christians in Baghdad that killed 37 people. Similar incidents are often reported in other places.
Churches throughout the world have now come to acknowledge the tragedy. On Christmas Eve, for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the titular head of the Anglican Church worldwide, said in his sermon that “Christians are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world today.” He singled out Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
Unlike elsewhere in the region, the Christian population in Israel isn’t declining. An encouraging report by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics indicates that Christian Arab students are doing better in matriculation examinations than any other group.”
Indeed, as National Post columnist Lawrence Solomon has pointed out:
“The one exception — where Christians flee to rather than from, where they increase rather than decrease in numbers — is Israel.
A century ago, the Middle East was about 20 per cent Christian. Today, following waves of persecutions, the proportion is 4 per cent and falling… In Israel, the history of decline is reversed. The Christian community of 34,000 at the time the modern state of Israel was created in 1948 has more than quadrupled to 158,000. Part of that quadrupling stems from a natural population increase — the Christian fertility rate modestly exceeds the 2.1 children per woman required to maintain a population. Most of it stems from Christian immigration into Israel, often following upheavals in neighboring countries or far-flung parts of the world.”