If the Arab Spring were to fulfill its revolution, what would happen? An anti-Christian “genocide,” fears Christian Solidarity International, a human rights group. Those who know the situation firsthand say that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly fearful and have been the victims of church bombings and street-beatings. If this were a real reformation it would entail not only democratic elections in countries like Egypt (where the repressive Muslim Brotherhood leads the pack), but tolerance for differences and dissent. Instead, we’re sensing an attempt to crush “the other,” not only political opponents but religious and ethnic minorities.
In this light, the demands of the Palestinian Authority for a new state without any Jewish settlements, or Jewish communities, is of a piece with the fundamentalist attitude across the “Arab Spring” that is threatening other non-Islamic populations.
Despite the Arab “demographic bomb” of soaring birthrates, only one Arab group has seen its numbers stagnate: the Christian Arabs. Christians make up a dramatically higher percentage of the Arab population in Israel, which has freedom of religion, than of the Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank. It wasn’t a merry Christmas in Gaza last week, and every year there are fewer Christian Arabs in Islamic Bethlehem.
In 2010, many Iraqi churches cancelled their Christmas services rather than risk their congregants’ lives. This year, Christians were attacked in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and Egypt. Christian Solidarity International warns that “conditions are now present for the eradication of the world’s oldest Christian communities.”
This fight is our fight, too. We know what it is to face an onslaught, with few if any allies. So it was a positive sign this past week when members of the New York Board of Rabbis joined several Christian leaders at the Iraq Mission in a bid to protect Iraqi Christians in the wake of the United States military withdrawal.
It is time for us to stand up and speak up for those who face religious persecution wherever they live.