The prognosis for Middle Eastern Christians is grim. As minorities within Muslim societies, they suffer from pressures varying from discriminatory legislation to kidnapping and murder. As Reverend Keith Roderick reveals in National Review Online, these pressures are far from absent in Iraq, where a Christian priest was recently kidnapped for a massive ransom, later reduced in return for local parishioners denouncing Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial remarks on Islam. Ransom paid and the pontiff duly denounced, the priest was nonetheless murdered.
Other revealing reports on the perilous predicament of Iraqi Christians include one from March by the New Republic’s Laurence Kaplan, who elaborates among other things on the wave of church bombings and the exodus of perhaps as many as 100,000 Christians in the past two years alone.
That the developments described in these pieces figure more broadly across the Middle East is apparent from this sobering report on the discrimination and demoralization of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority from Palestinian Christian intellectual George Catan.
A World Tribune report from February reveals that Gaza’s small Christian community was intimidated and threatened with murderous violence following the publication of the Danish Muhammad cartoons while Jerusalem Post journalist Khaled Abu Toameh already described in October 2005 the steady depopulation of Bethlehem’s once majority Christian community. The Vatican’s top foreign-policy official, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, also called attention in May to what he termed the “considerably reduced” Christian presence in the Middle East, evidenced in the reduction of Iran’s Catholic population to one-tenth of its size in 1973, Iraq’s to one-third since that date and the drop in Syria’s from 2.6% to 1% of Syria’s total population during the same period.