Twilight of a Church – The Exodus of Middle Eastern Christians
Since 2003 (the Iraq war) and especially since 2011 (Arab spring) the exodus of Christians from the east has been increasing. Some reports give only ten years for end of Christianity in the Middle East. This seems to be a pessimistic view, but observed experience shows an alarming and growing emigration.The subject of daily discussions is how to leave – go anywhere and in any way even if it means taking dangerous risks.
A family just sent their twelve-year-old son away with a caravan of fugitives. A twelve-year-old child may not return. Will he later be able to invite his family to join him? Will he find a safe place and given the military stalemate, an increasingly distant peace? To avoid military service and escape an absurd war that has lasted too long, young people are the highest proportion among those who leave.
What future has a Church without young people? It is the end of apostolic Christianity in a Biblical Land that has become a hostage of violence and intolerance in the name of a radical faith that neither supports pluralism nor accepts differences.
Envisioning the Future
How can the Church of the Middle East envision the future? Several paths are possible:
- a) Follow the faithful in the countries of the Diaspora to help them to keep their
faith of origin.
- b) Establish alliances between minorities to defend their citizens’ rights against
the domination of an ‘intolerant’ Islam.
- c) Seek guarantees of protection from the ruling authorities.
- d) Accept living under the shadow of Islam and continue a life full of difficulties and challenges.
The Christians of the East face an almost suicidal choice. Living under the shadow
of Islam remains a choice quite difficult to carry out. Living in the shadow of Islam
requires a return to the early centuries of the Church, which reflects the hidden
life of Jesus in Nazareth. This dynamism is favored by the Charter of the Year of
Mercy announced by Pope Francis. Showing the merciful face of Christ gives
vitality to the witness to the Gospel. The social Committee who visit Muslim
prisoners in Syria recalls the Good Samaritan at the heart of people in distress. This is a providential way, a challenge that enables the continuation of the Mission and the joy of the Divine Child.
BON NOEL 2015
Archevêque Maronite de Damas