Monday, May 27, 2013

Christians in the Arab world: a guide

As Islamists come to power across much of the Middle East, Christians are facing growing persecution
Egyptian Christians sit on the wall of the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, April 8.
Egyptian Christians sit on the wall of the Coptic cathedral in Cairo April 8. (AP Photo / Amr Nabil)
An article by The Week staff reports an alarming decrease of Christian population in the Middle East, dropping by more than 20 per cent in 2000. After the Iraq War in 2003, uprisings led by Islamic extremists and democrats threatened the lives of many Christians in Egypt, Syria, and Libya. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the State Department list Egypt and Iraq as severe religious freedom violators.

How many Christians live in the Middle East?
Between 10 million and 12 million. The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity and home to some of its oldest communities, but the Christian population has dropped dramatically over time, especially over the last decade.
When Christianity was founded 2,000 years ago, it spread rapidly across the Roman Empire, into Egypt and westward. Mohammed began the Arab Muslim conquests in the 7th century, spreading Islam across the region, but he allowed Christians to continue practising their religion.

Christians remained a majority in parts of Iraq until the 14th century, when raids by Central Asian warlord Tamerlane decimated the community. The 20th century saw another precipitous drop, because of low birthrates and emigration among Christians. In 1900 Christians made up 25 per cent of the population of the Middle East; by 2000 they were less than 5 per cent. And then came the Iraq War.
Full story can be viewed on The Week's website.

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