Marc Fromager talk: “Can Christianity survive in the Middle East?”
A large number of people attended a lecture on 2 July entitled “Christianity in the Middle East –can it survive?” at the Corinthia Palace hotel organized by ACN Malta.
Stephen Axisa, National Director gave a brief introduction and thanked the Corinthia Palace for their generous sponsorship of the event.
The main speaker was Marc Fromager, author of numerous books and articles on the Middle East, who gave a first-hand account of the current situation in Iraq and Syria. He has been studying the Middle East for the last 20 years and has observed how the Christian communities there have almost vanished because of the discrimination and violence they have had to face.
“We have to really underline the discrimination and specific persecution of Christians. It seems they don’t have where to live and that is why a lot had to flee. The question is ‘is there a future for them in the Middle East?’” said Mr Fromager.
French author Marc Fromager started his talk with what he described as very good news, namely that displaced Christians are starting to return to their homes in towns and villages destroyed by war and ISIS occupation at a much faster rate than had been anticipated. This is indeed promising news for the future of Christianity in the Middle East, though many problems remain, particularly regarding rebuilding damaged homes and infrastructure and providing safe conditions for returning Christians to survive, work and prosper.
In the fast-changing Middle East, Christians are increasingly the victims – often collateral victims – of different issues, which Fromager identified as: radicalisation of Islam and resulting homogenisation of the Middle East; struggle for regional hegemony between Saudi Arabia and Iran; insatiable demand for oil and gas; the arms race and finally western interference and dependency on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Fromager stated bluntly that the US and European countries should stop interfering in the Middle East. He said that this interference led to the creation of ISIS and the war in Syria. The crisis which followed has also resulted in the immigration problem in Europe.
Fromager said that the greatest problem he sees is the radicalisation of Islam, which is presenting huge obstacles for communities with different religious beliefs to live together as they used to do in the past. He attributed this to the global spread of Wahhabism, financed and encouraged by Saudi Arabia. There were also internal factors within Islam itself, which he believed was facing a crisis as ancient ways of life were not compatible with modern ideas of equality and freedom. This has caused some Muslims to become atheists or convert to Christianity, while others became strict fundamentalists and reverted to the lifestyle, beliefs and dress of the early days of Islam over 1300 years ago.
Marc Fromager was followed by ACN Malta’s Ecclesiastical Assistant, Mgr Prof Hector Scerri, who spoke about the difficulties Middle East Christians faced.
Archbishop Emeritus Paul Cremona O.P. gave the concluding address and led all those attending in a prayer for peace in the Middle East.