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Why has the suffering of the Middle Eastern Christian communities not ignited outrage and support from Western Christians? The answer has something to do with Israel and the Second Coming, writes Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch
In the autumn of 2008, I was in Syria shooting a BBC TV series A History of Christianity. It’s painful to look back on that happy time, to think of the warm reception we had and wonder what has happened to all those people now. One moment I remember especially: my interview with His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, at his Church’s fine new seminary buildings in the hills outside Damascus.
Before he would say anything else, the venerable Patriarch fixed me with a stern stare and told me to tell all Western Christians of the desperate plight which now faced the Christians of the Middle East. And that was when Syria was still one of the few countries in the Middle East where Christian Churches were strong and respected communities, taking their full part in national life. Elsewhere, things were desperate; and now they are in Syria too: Christians are scapegoated for their faith by an extremist militant minority of Muslims, who betray their own religion by intolerance, and who make other Muslims ashamed of what is happening.
The problem is a Protestant one, going right back to sixteenth-century Reformation.
From Martin Luther onwards, many Protestants have eagerly been awaiting an imminent end to the world, the return of Christ in glory.
Reading the Bible, it’s easy to link this to the idea that a necessary precondition for Christ to return is that his ancient people the Jews convert to the Christian faith; and so many Protestants have sought the right conditions for that to happen.
American foreign policy has for decades seemed locked into hardly questioning its support for the State of Israel, even though the consequences for its relations with the Arab and Muslim world, and with others, are almost entirely negative.
They have been particularly dire for the traditional Christianities of the Middle East. Christian communities were already generally in steep decline in numbers through the region, and Israel/Palestine in particular, even before the present Syrian and Egyptian crises.
Caught between the animosities of a politics which has other concerns, Arab Christians have every incentive to leave, whenever they can, for exile in less dangerous lands, ending a connection with homelands which goes directly back to the first generations of the followers of Christ. It is easy for them to feel abandoned and betrayed by the Christian-based cultures of the West.
When will this Western silence end?
why does op think western nations are all about Christianity? that's the great thing about us, is that we don't make decisions liake this based on religion.
op go fight your holy war elsewhere.
I believe we are responsible for this mess - WE, HUMAN BEINGS - regardless of race, creed, nationality, or culture.
because unlike the middle east, the west isn't defined by our religions.
to be honest, we don't care. they aren't citizens of the west, its not our business.
why does op think western nations are all about Christianity? that's the great thing about us, is that we don't make decisions like this based on religion.
op go fight your holy war elsewhere.
The Kremlin is about to consider granting citizenship to about 50 thousand Syrian Christians in the region of Qualamun after they issued a collective request to Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In statements issued in the past few days, the spokesmen for President Putin and the Ministry confirmed that the request is being examined by the highest Russian authorities. “This is the first time since Christ’s birth that we, the Christians of Saidnaya and Maara Saidnaya, Maalula and Maarun are being threatened with expulsion from our land.”
it sounds like you have a preference. at least your article there does.
Just because eastern religions are based in the same root source as western Christianity, doesn't make them Christians as well.
To the OP: I don't think this is very accurate. There are lots of missions to the middle east. Part of the problem with Syria right now is that it is completely embroiled in violence. Even the red cross/crescent is having a difficult time getting help to the people that need it because of the violence.
To say that western Christians are leaving our middle eastern brothers and sisters to their fates because we're trying to hasten the second coming is ridiculous.
They are Christians if they hold the same beliefs that Jesus Is God that Western Christians do.
But Wildtimes, as long as there are humans and a multiplicity of human perspective and intellect, there will never be peace. Humans have a way of doing that.