Christians are Leaving the Middle East.
From the web site of Watani, the Egyptian weekly newspaper ( http://www.wataninet.com)
How many Christians are still living in the lands where Christianity was born? The data are random and are often mere ‘political figures.’ The statistics vary from simple to double according to the source; communities or governments. But everywhere, their numbers tend to be declining.
Recently, two warning signals flared-up: Iraq and Egypt. The reasons of the exile of the Christians of Iraq, who are mostly Assyro-Chadian, are obvious: the war and the chaos which followed. The Sunnis who attack the majority Shiites did not forget the Christians. Between 60,000 to 100,000, out of approximately 800,000, have left Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.In Egypt, the Copts, heirs to the very first Christians, are also tempted by the exile. Politically marginalized, and faced with difficulties when they want to build or enlarge a place of worship, they were alarmed by the success of 88 Moslem Brotherhood deputies in the legislative elections of December 2005, and also by the simultaneous attacks against three churches in Alexandria last April. They emigrate from the countryside, not only to the cities, but towards abroad. Beyond the aggressions, the reasons of their departures are complex: the land reform of Nasser and the demographic pressure undoubtedly play important roles.
Everywhere in the Near East, Christians are anxious. “For them, the future is invisible”, says Joseph Yacoub, professor of political science at the institute of the human rights in Lyon. “They live more and more in fear.” Their bitterness is all the more sharp, as many of them assert themselves to be as much Arab as the Moslems. Many have played political roles in Egypt before Nasser, and in the creation of the Pan-Arab parties like Baath, or the Palestinian movements.
Christians often affiliate with the Arab-Moslem nationalism: The Coptic pope Shenouda III prohibited his faithful from going to Jerusalem “as long as all the Moslems and all the Arabs were not able to go.” And Mgr Michel Sabbah, the first Palestinian patriarch in the Holy Land, denounces the Israeli occupation regularly. But they fear that such pledges are not enough any more. Already, under the pressure of Islamists, the Arab governments, including Egypt, have all, except for Lebanon, made references to the Shari’a in their Constitutions as “principal source” of legislation. Joseph Yacoub fears to see the discriminations being further accentuated wherever Islamists take power.