Monday, April 10, 2017

Christians Of The East, From Anxiety To Exile

Eastern Christians have been rooted in the Middle East since the beginnings of Christianity, forming minority communities, but they are confronted with murderous conflicts in the region.

The latter are distinguished by the extreme diversity of the rites which were born there and which are still practiced here.

- Egypt -

The Orthodox Copts targets Sunday of two attacks claimed by the Islamic State (EI) group, constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East and one of the oldest.

The Copts represent 10% of the more than 92 million Egyptians and are present throughout the country, with higher concentrations in Middle-Egypt. They are poorly represented in government and are marginalized.

The Copts have long been the target of violence, which has worsened since the emergence of jihadist groups such as the IE.

- Iraq -

The Chaldeans represent the majority of Christians in Iraq. With more than a million people - more than 600,000 in Baghdad - before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Christian community has been reduced to less than 350,000 souls, many of whom have fled the violence that is bloodstained in the country since.

Indeed, from the summer of 2014, the Christians of Mosul, the second city of the country, fled en masse the offensive of the EI which took control of whole sections of the country. Tens of thousands of others, most faithful of the Chaldean Catholic Church, followed them on the roads of the exodus.

According to refugee testimonies, jihadists forced Christians to choose between converting to Islam or paying a heavy tax, threatening them with death. The EI commits attacks against all those they consider heretical in Iraq: Christians, Shia Muslims, Yazidis ...

Qaraqosh, which was the largest Christian conglomeration in Iraq, was resumed at the IE in October 2016.

- Syria -

In Syria, devastated by six years of war, Christians represent between 5 and 9% of the population (more than 22 million inhabitants).

Christians have largely stood aside from a conflict that has claimed more than 320,000 lives, but many of them have supported President Bashar al-Assad, particularly for fear of the Islamism of some rebel groups.

They were targeted by the JI jihadists who carried out mass kidnappings and destroyed churches.

According to the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo (north), Archbishop Antoine Audo, there are only 30,000 Christians left out of the 160,000 who lived in Aleppo, a city devastated by fighting and whose regime has taken over the rebel areas after a violent campaign of Bombings. Half of the 1.5 million Syrian Christians have left the country, he said.

- Lebanon -

Lebanese Christians are the second largest Christian community in the Middle East after the Copts of Egypt. Lebanon is the only country in the region traditionally run by a Christian president, while all other Arab world leaders are Muslims. The Lebanese system is built on a sharing of power based on EU quotas. Since independence in 1943, it guarantees an unprecedented parity in the region between Muslims and Christians. The Christian community has become a minority over the decades.

- Palestinian Territories -

In the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, there are nearly 50,000 Christians, mainly in Bethlehem and Ramallah.

The place of birth of Christ according to tradition, Bethlehem, with a Christian majority half a century ago, is today a Muslim majority. But Christians have a central role in important economic sectors.

In the Gaza Strip, their number is steadily declining, especially after the takeover of power by the Hamas Islamist movement in 2007.

- Jordan -

Christians represent 6% of the Jordanian population, estimated at 9.5 million. Christians hold high positions and are entitled to parliamentary representation.

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