Is Christianity doomed in the Middle East? That is the question asked in a confronting article in Britain’s New Statesman journal.
I am relatively optimistic about the outlook for Egyptian Christians. As I tried to show in my novel, the Coptics are a praying people who, despite enduring many centuries of hardship and martyrdom, stand strong, proud and defiant. For nearly 2,000 years they have remained true to their calling – true to Christ, true to the Bible, true to their teachings and unafraid of death.
But the outlook for much of the region’s remaining Christians is certainly grim. The author of the New Statesman article is Gerard Russell, who has also written the recently published book “Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East.”
Without the Christians, the region will be even less liberal and more monochrome, and will risk becoming more isolated.
The Middle East would also lose a part of the heritage and history that all its people, Muslim or Christian, have in common. For the Christian communities have preserved parts of their nations’ heritage: Aramaic in Iraq, pharaonic hymns in Egypt. Their diversity (there are innumerable sects) reflects the region’s history, each sect tracing its origin to the political developments of one era or another. The schools that Christians run in the Middle East, open to Muslims, have educated generations of Arabs.
We sometimes regard it as unthinkable that Christianity could all but disappear from the land of its birth. Yet we should recall that Christians have been virtually wiped out from much of North Africa, where they were once so prevalent.
It is certainly a cause for sadness. But remember too that, at the same time Christianity is blossoming in parts of Asia and Africa. In the midst of suffering there is always a reason for thanks.