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This blogspot was started by the participants of the 5th International Summer School of ECPYN in Chisinau, Moldova, August 24-29 2008.
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Friday, April 6, 2012

Christianity in Decline? (part 1)

In December 2010, a wave of street protests was started in the Arab World by young people who protested against dictatorships, corruption and unemployment. They succeeded to overthrow dictators who ruled their countries for decades, people became freer than before, exiled
leaders came back and had the opportunity to participle in elections. But, the artificial conflicts created by older regimes within the people remained and will remain for a while.

An example: On the 9th of October last year, hundreds of Coptic Christians went to the streets to protest against the destruction of a church in southern Egypt. The Church of the Marinab had all its permits from local councils since the 1930s and authorities started demolition saying permits are not valid. There are 53 other churches that are closed by the authorities and citizens (Christians) can not use them, Christian minority saw this as an attack on its identity and as a sign of lack of freedom just like pre-revolutionary era.
A march was organized from Shubra to the State TV headquarters in Masbero, the army used military vehicles to stop the march and went through civilians killing 29 people and injuring 232, in a few hours only. Official communication was that protesters had machine guns and killed 3 soldiers. There were no arrests within the military corps following the murders but there were among the organizers of the march.
This case showed the brutality of the military body ruling the country after dictatorship and its hostility towards the Christian minority, at the same time, public media stated the Copts were the
only ones responsible for the events. There were many left-wing and moderate Muslim parties and associations who condemned the events as mass murder, but there was no stronger pressure to judge the real responsible of the killings.

This is one of the bloodiest repressions against Christians in decades, there were many other crimes committed against the Coptic minority (Kosheh 2000, Nag Hammadi 2010, Imbaba 2011)
but only in a few cases were perpetrators brought to justice, in Kosheh where 21 (the youngest martyr was 11 years old) people were killed, 93 were arrested and after 11 months they were all released, except 1 who killed a Muslim by mistake, he got 13 years to spend in jail. Just to make you understand the scale of the riots, 4500 shops and houses were looted in 48 hours, the police was withdrawn from the city during that period and a very high percentage of the victims were Christian. It is alleged that many of the criminals are serving nowadays in the armed forces
of Sohag Governorate.

The attack of a monastery, the abduction of a Christian girl and forcibly marrying her to a Muslim, burning a church or a Christian's house or shop, riots by local mobs against Christians' shops and cars are weekly issues in Egyptian media and sources of conflicts between radical Islamists and Christians. This trend is made up of islamisation and radicalisation of Islam among several social levels, the resistance of Christians to appearences of islamisation and the involvement of the regime to strengthen inter-confessionnal strifes.

Why I am writing and mentioning all this is that a Christian civilization of the Middle East is in danger. A Church which was founded by St Mark the Apostle, which is 1950 years old, has 12 million members worldwide, 2500 churches and monasteries, is in danger, especially now as Islamists gained absolute majority in the General Assembly on the elections of 2011-2012 (extremist Islamists of Al-Nur gained more than a quarter of all votes).

Many times I wonder how can I/we help as Christians? what can we do to make people all over the world know about this danger? How can a massive Christian exodus be prevented? What should the effective reaction be when we hear a church is burned down? What ideas should be proposed/used to help them? Against who/where shall we protest to stop the bloodshed?
We have to think about these questions and act.

And the above mentioned cases are related to current situations in Egypt, what about Iraq?
more than half of Iraqi Christians fled their homes, fearing killings and abductions, 500 to 1000 of the most ancient churches were burnt down and US troops did nothing to prevent these.
What could happen in Syria in case Assad regime ended? Nearly all of the "freedom-fighters" are radical Sunni Islamists from Syria and the Arab peninsula.
What about Turkey? The government is always refusing to recognize the Armenian Genocide committed by Turkish soldiers, recent Christian converts are harassed, many spend years in prison for false charges.
What about Iran? we don't know if Youssef Nadarkhani (converted form Islam to Christianity) is still alive, he was transferred to a state prison and condemned to death penalty by hanging.
What about Saudi Arabia? having a Holy Bible or a definitely Christian book is considered a crime.
What about Pakistan? Asia Bibi, accused of Blasphemy for refusing to convert to Islam, is still in
prison after 2 years now.

Since the start of the Civil War in Lebanon which Christians lost, Christianity in the Middle East
is in decline. The roots of our religion, the existence of the history's first Christian nations is in danger, the actual situation is not unique, they were threatened before the Crusades and during Ottoman Islamic rule, but it survived and I hope it will survive the decades/centuries that are coming. But, our task is to keep the attention of our surrounding on them and help them in staying in their homeland in peace and dignity.

50000 Syrian Christians were made homeless by al Faruq Brigade in the last 4 weeks in the city of Homs, they are going to spend Easter in fear. So it’s time to get to action!

Happy Easter for all of you!
God Bless,

Joseph Y.F. Potter

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