BreakPoint: Disappearing Christians

Their Flight from the Middle East

We can’t say it often enough: Christians are disappearing from the Middle East. They need our prayers and support.

More than 20 Coptic Christians massacred in a bus on their way to Mass . . . the grisly double bombing at the Mar Girgis church near Cairo that slaughtered at least 45 people on Palm Sunday  . . . these are only the latest outrages against Christians in the Middle East. Such attacks by ISIS and other Muslim terrorist groups—accompanied by the studied indifference of governments that claim to care about religious minorities—have sparked a tragic exodus of believers from their homelands.

That’s bad news not just for Christians, but for everyone. “The exodus leaves the Middle East overwhelmingly dominated by Islam, whose rival sects often clash, raising the prospect that radicalism in the region will deepen,” says Maria Abi-Habib in The Wall Street Journal. “Conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims have erupted across the Middle East, squeezing out Christians in places such as Iraq and Syria and forcing them … abroad” to “Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.”

The phenomenon of disappearing Mideast Christians is one of the most massive and under-reported stories of our time. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary says that in 1910, 13.6 percent of the population of the Middle East was Christian. But after a century that saw the explosion of Christianity elsewhere in the world, by 2025, followers of Christ, if current trends hold, will constitute just over 3 percent of Middle Easterners.

My colleague Warren Cole Smith recently interviewed WORLD Magazine Senior Editor Mindy Belz for our BreakPoint podcast. She has seen firsthand the challenges Christians face in the Middle East. Mindy has been visiting the region since the Gulf War in 2003, meeting local Christians and hearing their plight.

At one point she set aside her strict journalist’s code, and she told Warren, “became an accomplice to Iraq’s Christians.” One stalwart Iraqi Christian woman asked Mindy to carry money across the border so she could minister to the church, and after serious soul-searching, Mindy did.

You can hear the entire fascinating one-hour conversation between Warren and Mindy when you subscribe to the BreakPoint podcast. You’ll also hear about Mindy’s outstanding and moving book, “They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East.”

In the interview, Warren asked Mindy what she thought of the Iraq War. “I was hopeful,” she said. Many minority groups “felt like the U. S. invasion represented a new day for them … that they would finally have new-found freedoms and be able to worship freely and live freely and run their businesses freely.

“It’s a myth that things were better under Saddam Hussein,” she continued, “because every Christian I talked to in those early years had been jailed or somehow harassed under Hussein.”

But of course, for many reasons, things did not go as planned. In 2003, Iraq had about 1.5 million Christians. Today, only about 300,000 remain. There’s a similar tale of disappearing Christians as a result of the chaos in Syria. Since 2011, that country’s once-sizable Christian population of 2.5 million has been cut in half.

“Today,” according to Maria Abi-Habib, “more Arab Christians live outside the Middle East than in the region. Some 20 million live abroad, compared with 15 million Arab Christians who remain in the Mideast.”

And all of them deserve our prayers. Please come to our online store at BreakPoint.org and check out Mindy’s book for an up-close look at the trials facing our brothers and sisters. And do subscribe to our BreakPoint podcast wherever you download apps. We have great interviews with folks like Mindy, Joni Eareckson Tada, George Barna . . . and special talks by Chuck Colson and more.

 

Disappearing Christians: Their Flight from the Middle East

Read Mindy Belz’s book, ” They Say We Are Infidels,” available at the online bookstore. And check out the list of organizations that support persecuted Christians.

 

Voice of the Martyrs

Freedom House

International Christian Concern

Christian Solidarity International

 

 

 

Resources

Christians, in an Epochal Shift, Are Leaving the Middle East
  • Maria Abi-Habib | Wall Street Journal | May 12, 2017
Interview with Mindy Belz, Part 1
  • Warren Cole Smith | BreakPoint podcast | April 2017
Interview with Mindy Belz, Part 2
  • Warren Cole Smith | BreakPoint podcast | May 2017

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  • Phoenix1977

    Not to be insensitive here but how is this any different from what Christians have done in Latin America or Africa? How many druids and pagans have been slaughtered in the name if Christ on the British Islands and in Ireland? In several states in the US Native-Americans are still not allowed to worship their gods of old. The only difference is the type of weapons used: swords and single-shot riffles by Christians vs. fully automated assault riffles and small but very powerful explosives by muslims today.

    I don’t wish it on anyone to be driven away from their homes but there is very little we can do about it. As the saying goes: “Karma’s a bitch”. And Christians all over the world are experiencing how much bad blood and bad karma has accumulated over the past 2000 years.

  • disqus_MG7XgmMuEx

    I have to question Ms Belz’s quote that Christians were not better under SH. “Jailed or somehow harassed” is not the same as the brutality that ISIS deals out to any who resist it. And what of the time before the 1st Gulf War (1990-1991)? How were Christians treated then? One of their number was a Chaldean Christian who negotiated with SecState James Baker to attempt to avert a coalition invasion.

    But another problem is the interventionalist perspective that’s reflected in both Mr Smith and Ms Belz. The intent of the founding fathers of this country was to stay out of entanglements in foreign conflicts as much as possible, especially Europe’s conflicts. Not to avoid them altogether, but to only enter commitments that were in the best interests of the country and to respectfully abstain or withdraw from them when they weren’t. Neither isolationist NOR interventionalist. Avoiding entanglements.

    There are theological problems with an interventionalist perspective as well. When Jesus was before Pilate He stated that He was a king, but that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). This was during His Passion. Jesus was certainly not a pacifist as that term is commonly understood, but He did not rely on outside military forces to rescue Him during His work. Indeed, He stated that persecution of many kinds would come to believers, but that His Kingdom was to advance through non-violent means and that His followers were to rely on Him.

    A nation-state military is composed of members with many different beliefs. They volunteered (vol in our time and country) to defend their nation-state with their lives if necessary. Is it really moral to force them to wage war and possibly die in anything besides the vital interests of their nation-state? Is everybody in the nation-state willing to support the war effort with their blood, sweat and tears? Remember W.T. Sherman’s quote – … War is Hell. And war often doesn’t have the effects that we want it to have.

    Our founding fathers were composed of men with varying beliefs as well, some that are considered to be within the bounds of Orthodox Christianity and some that are not. But they created America to be America, not as the world’s policeman, and not to search for monsters to destroy. They knew firsthand the limits of power – they overthrew the British but they also knew how and why the British lost – abuse of their power. Our founding fathers were realists.