Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NYT: Mideast Christians losing numbers, influence.

As Pope Benedict XVI continues his visit to the Holy Land, the New York Times casts one of its infrequent glimpses at the Christians of the Middle East. Here are a few paragraphs of the article:
Christians used to be a vital force in the Middle East. They dominated Lebanon and filled top jobs in the Palestinian movement. In Egypt, they were wealthy beyond their number. In Iraq, they packed the universities and professions. Across the region, their orientation was a vital link to the West, a counterpoint to prevailing trends.

But as Pope Benedict XVI wends his way across the Holy Land this week, he is addressing a dwindling and threatened Christian population driven to emigration by political violence, lack of economic opportunity and the rise of radical Islam. A region that a century ago was 20 percent Christian is about 5 percent today and dropping.

. . .

The pope, in a Mass on Tuesday at the foot of the Mount of Olives, addressed "the tragic reality" of the "departure of so many members of the Christian community in recent years."

He said: "While understandable reasons lead many, especially the young, to emigrate, this decision brings in its wake a great cultural and spiritual impoverishment to the city [of Jerusalem]. Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: in the Holy Land there is room for everyone!"

On Sunday in Jordan the pope argued that Christians had a role here in reconciliation, that their very presence eased the strife, and that the decline of that presence could help to increase extremism. When the mix of beliefs and lifestyles goes down, orthodoxy rises, he implied, as does uniformity of the cultural landscape in a region where tolerance is not an outstanding virtue.
To read the rest, click here. Except for the papal quotes, there's really nothing new in the NYT article. Even so, as I've written before, the beleaguered Christians of the Middle East need all the attention from the Western media (and from Western policymakers) as they can get. They also need your prayers, so I hope that you'll join me in continuing to pray for them. AMDG.


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