Persecution of Middle East Christians Must be Confronted, Conference Demands

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By Setrige Crawford, Christian Post Reporter
January 26, 2012|5:56 pm

A conference has been held in Massachusetts calling on church leaders in America to confront the ongoing destruction of Christianity in the Middle East.

The one-day conference titled, "The Persecuted Church: Christian Believers in Peril in the Middle East," was held Jan. 21, and led with an alarming message that Christianity was being destroyed in the region of its birth.

The conference was sponsored by the Committee for Accuracy in the Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). CAMERA's Executive Director, Andrea Levin said that the media should shine a consistent light to reveal the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians to help prevent future violence.

"Silence on the other hand may do the opposite," Levin added.

Walid Phares, an American scholar born in Lebanon and keynote speaker of the CAMERA conference, said that Christians and other minorities have been victims of violence in the Middle East for years.

"I lived through it in the 20th century," Phares said. "We have crossed the threshold of a new century and yet it's still happening."

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Phares, who advises the U.S. Congress on terrorism related issues, also said that these types of conflicts have been overshadowed by an obsession with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Frank Salameh, assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies at Boston College agreed.

"There's clearly a prevailing hierarchy in the media's treatment of Middle Eastern violence...some victims get airtime on prime time, all the time," Salameh said. "Others simply don't. Middle Eastern Christians are not a top priority."

Documenting attacks on Christians is not fashionable, because it is viewed as being anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, and a Western attempt to divide the Arab world, according to Salameh.

Those who attended the conference heard testimonies of people who witnessed such violence.

Juliana Taimoorazy, founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, spoke about the plight of Assyrians in Iraq and mentioned that churches were bombed almost 100 times. She added that coordinated bombings would attack multiple churches at the same time.

"Most of these attacks happened on Fridays, marking the day of Islamic prayer," Taimoorazy said.

She continued saying that clergy have been kidnapped and killed on a regular basis, while children have also fallen victim to radical Islamists.

"In October 2006 - in the 21st century - a 14-year-old boy was crucified in Barsa, in the center of the city," Taimoorazy said.

Egyptian Human Rights Activist, Cynthia Farahat also gave accounts detailing the stories of persecuted Christians. She said that Christians are considered to be lower-class citizens in Egypt, citing that she was considered a fourth-class citizen because she is a woman and a Christian.

"The first class citizen is the Egyptian Sunni Muslim male, the second-class is the Sunni female. The third is the Christian male. The fourth is the Christian female," Farahat reported.

Farahat added that the fourth-class Egyptian has "absolutely" no legal rights.

Meanwhile, Greek Ambassador to Lebanon in Antelias, Catholicosate Aram I, spoke at an International Conference on The Christian Presence and Witness in the Arab World. He disagreed with the notion of persecuted Christians seeking assistance from Western powers. Instead, he called Christian communities in the Arab world to engage in dialogue with those in Islam who advocate democracy, coexistence and non-violence, according to PanArmenian.net.

"The Christians are deeply concerned about their future in the Middle East. Uncertainty, anxiety and fear are increasingly dominating their life," Aram said. "But the Christians should not turn to their Christian brothers and sisters in the West, they should turn to their Muslim co-citizens and partners to share with them their concerns and expectations."

Aram challenged Christians and Muslims to not just be good neighbors, but to create real partnerships as co-citizens.

 

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