CHRISTIANS UNDER GROWING PRESSURE IN ARAB WORLD
The Arab Spring uprisings that have toppled secular dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa have unleashed long-suppressed freedoms that have allowed Islamic parties to gain a share of political power they have been denied for decades. Their rise is creating near-panic among ancient Christian communities that dot the Muslim world and predate Islam by centuries, says an article by Oren Dorell and Sarah Lynch.
In Tunisia, where the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted last year after 32 years in power, the dominant political party, Ennahda, has worried some of Tunis' 22,000 Catholics by vowing to tilt the country's yet-to-be-written constitution toward sharia, or the detailed and often harsh system of Muslim theocratic laws, the authors say in the opinion titled "Christians fear losing freedoms in Arab Spring movement" published by Business Mirror.
In Afghanistan, no new building permits have been issued for churches, and the last church open to the public was demolished over the summer. In Iraq, the Christian community has decreased by two-thirds since 2003 amid bombings of churches and assassinations of priests, they remind.
The authors go on to say: "Christians in Syria, where Muslims have risen up against President Bashar Assad, have been subjected to murder, rape and kidnappings in Damascus and rebellious towns, according to Christian rights groups,
"Nowhere is the irony more profound than in Egypt, where an estimated 8 million Christians live with more than 70 million Muslims.
"Christians demonstrated alongside Muslims early last year to oust Hosni Mubarak. Before Mubarak's overthrow, Christians had suffered from years of church burnings and murders at the hands of radical Muslims who want an Islamic state free of religious minorities. And after the ouster, the military regime that has been running the country has refused to make any arrests in attacks on Christians."
Some Middle Eastern countries remain relatively safe for Christians, says Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors. Jordan accepted thousands of Iraqi refugees, including Christians, who are allowed to practice their faith. Armenian Christians in Iran, while monitored by the government, can worship unhindered, though conversion is illegal, Moeller says.
"But Christians in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring movement began, have faced a growing number of restrictions since the dictatorship fell, he says.
Historian Habib Malik of Lebanese American University in Byblos, Lebanon, says Western nations can improve the situation by shifting from promoting democratic rule to emphasizing "minority rights, checks and balances, freedoms and the substance side of democracy."
He says Western nations must stand up for the rights of Christians, who he says may be cleansed from lands where democratic elections are used to oppress minorities rather than empower them.
- 1865 Birth of Vasili Ghorghanyan (musicologist). He died in 1934.
- 1919 The Armenian National Council of Gharabagh request officers of the Allied Army to effect the withdrawal of Turkish (Azeri and Ottoman) forces from Gharabagh, and create a local autonomous unit under British supervision. The request is denied.
- 1945 Conference of the leaders of the Allies: Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin during the Second World War, in Yalta (Crimea). The three Allies and France would occupy Germany, and the Soviet Union would start a war against Japan.