Vatican synod to mull Middle East Christian exodus

October 7, 2010

baghdad churchWith Christianity dwindling in its Middle Eastern birthplace, Pope Benedict has convened Catholic bishops from the region to debate how to save its minority communities and promote harmony with their Muslim neighbours.

For two weeks starting on Sunday, the bishops will discuss problems for the faithful ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and strife in Iraq to radical Islamism, economic crisis and the divisions among the region’s many Christian churches.

(Photo: Worshippers light candles after Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad October 3, 2010/Mohammed Ameen)

They come from local churches affiliated with the Vatican, but the relentless exodus of all Christians — Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants — has prompted them to take a broad look at the challenges facing all followers of Jesus there.

While conditions for Christians vary from country to country, the overall picture is dramatic. Christians made up around 20 percent of the region’s population a century ago, but now account for about five percent and falling.

“If this phenomenon continues, Christianity in the Middle East will disappear,” said Rev. Samir Khalil Samir, a Beirut-based Egyptian Jesuit who helped draw up the working document for the October 10-24 synod at the Vatican.

Read the full analysis here. See also our factbox on Christians in the Middle East.

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Posted by CIPEI » Christians Decline in Holy Land and Middle East Arab States | Report as abusive

As an Egyptian Christian, I am drawn to this post as I see the desperate need for visibility of Middle Eastern Christians. Too often I am met with the assumption that I am Islamic due to my ethnicity. This post provides hope for the transformation of the image of the Arab world. I appreciate your acknowledgement of how the political tensions play a significant role on the religious tensions. With an overwhelming number of Muslim leaders in government, little attention is given to the Christian community. There are countless crimes against Christianity in the region that must be mended by officials. With a powerful head such as Pope Benedict leading the synod, the world is finally taking notice to this issue that is constantly ignored. However, I find myself skeptical of the results due to the synod’s brevity. The Catholic National Reporter cited that the logic for the brevity is that due to “the rather complex situation in the Middle East, we do not want to keep the shepherds from their flocks for too long.” I find this to be a weak explanation. In fact, many of the issues that must be attended to can be solved by the continuing effort of the synod.

Although you state the religious goals of the synod in the Middle East, I see the synod doing more for the image of the region above solving religious issues. Western media rarely defies this image of Islamic fanatics. Fortunately, this synod displays the diversity of the region and expels the unfortunate Islamaphobia that plagues the Western world. With the recent numbers displayed in your post, is the disappearance of Christianity a possibility? Is there potential an increase in Christians due to the modernization of the Arab world? Or is this too far-fetched? Overall, I thank you for providing the world with the facts that Christians do in fact exist in the Middle East. I am excited to see what comes out of the synod and will keep up with this blog to provide me insight into a world I am immersed in daily. Thank you.

Posted by Msaleeb | Report as abusive