Muslims in the Middle East should do everything they can to protect the minority Christian population in that area of the world, Beirut’s Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil has said.
Khalil was speaking over the weekend at the opening of a new health care facility in the Beirut neighborhood of Sad al-Bouchrieh.
“The responsibility to preserve the Christians of the East is not the responsibility of Christians and their leaders only, but an Islamic humanitarian responsibility as well,” Khalil said, according to the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star, while commemorating the opening of the St. Michel Primary Health Care Center.
The head of the Chaldean Church, Bishop Michel Qassarji, who is in charge of the new clinic, said it is designed to serve anyone regardless of their sectarian affiliation.
Lebanon has one of the higher Christian populations of countries in the Middle Eastern region. Lebanon's population is estimated to be 59.7 percent Muslim, 39 percent Christian and 1.3 percent other, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.
Many areas of the Middle East have often been home to severe Christian persecution -- both historically and in recent years -- much of it underreported or neglected by the Western media.
In December 2010, Muslim extremists attacked an Orthodox Coptic Church in Upper Egypt during Christmas midnight Mass and murdered nine. On New Year’s Day, twenty church goers died and seventy others were wounded when a car bomb exploded outside the Church of Saints in Alexandria.
More recently, An Iranian high court this week decreed that Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, must recant his faith or face death, as per that county’s apostasy laws.
According to the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, an organization of European-based Roman Catholic bishops, 75 percent of all religious persecution in the world is against Christians.
The Russian Orthodox Church this month issued a plea for the end of Christian persecution in Muslim-dominated nations, while making pains not to blame Islam as a whole for the persecution.
“Islam is a peaceful religion and the Koran preaches respect for people of other confessions, in particular, Christians and Judaists,” said Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev to the Voice of Russia news organization.
“The persecution we are witnessing today does not stem from adherents of moderate Islam but from radical groups that also make other Muslims’ life difficult.”