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Hope for the Middle East – Open Doors

November 1, 2016

hftmeOne of the greatest threats to the existence of the Christian church in the Middle East since its birth over 2,000 years ago (think of Paul on the road to Damascus – in Syia). Christians are facing targeted persecution and leaving Syria and Iraq at an increasing rate. If this rate of emigration continues, within a few years the Christian communities in these countries will be utterly devastated.

Before the rise of Islamist extremism, the different religious communities in Iraq, Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, and Christian, co-existed in peace. Christian holy places were often revered by Muslims; priests and imams alike were respected.

Quotations:

“Please do not speak about us as a beleaguered minority; we consider ourselves as part of the silent majority that wants to live together peacefully in the region.”

Our vision is: to strengthen the Christian presence so that it will continue to make a recognised, positive contribution to Middle Eastern society.

“I want my fellow Iraqis to know that we are not guests in Iraq. Our ancestors built this country. Treat me as a sister, not as a guest.”

Ensure that the current and future  legal frameworks in Syria and Iraq fully promote and protect the equal and inalienable rights of all their citizens, irrespective of race, religion or other status

Ensure the dignified and continued improvement of living conditions for all citizens, but especially for returning refugees and the internally displaced – including through the provision of adequate housing, education and jobs

Identify and equip religious leaders and faith-based organisations to play a constructive and central role in reconciling and rebuilding both Syrian and Iraqi societies.

Ancient Syria was a heartland of Christianity for 700 years and modern-day Syria has its roots in what was the Eastern Roman empire, Byzantium. After Arabic became the prominent language following the Islamic conquests, Christians were known as translators of words and ideas, bringing Greek philosophy to the Middle East through translation of Greek texts to Syriac and Arabic.

“In the early stages of several important new developments, whether literary or scientific, Christians, who have always been a significant presence in professional fields such as medicine, science, engineering, and education, have played a vital enabling role, facilitating important developments that might not, or indeed sometimes could not, otherwise have developed without their presence and participation.”

“Christians are not only victims of violence. They are also significant contributors to the well-being of the wider community.”

“An estimate from before 2012 suggests that more than 300 schools were run by charitable bodies of churches.”

“In the area of music, composition, the orchestra symphony, Christians dominate essentially the entire field. From music teachers, conductors, the department of music at the University of Damascus is also dominated by Christians. At least 75 per cent of those active in the field of music are from the Christian communities.”

“Monasteries were not only places where people sought to practise their faith and look for holiness, but also places in which they sought knowledge, since most were important centres of learning in which Greek works were translated and numerous original works were written.”

“The largely Christian town of al-Qaryatain was overrun by Daesh in August 2015. More than 20 Christians were murdered.”

 

“Radical Islamic groups are working for the religious cleansing of Iraq with the aim of making the country purely Islamic.”

“It is possible that cross-religious relationships may be rebuilt, but this will need time and intentional effort on the part of all members of society.”

“The educational curriculum will have an influence on how minorities are treated in the coming decades.”

Christians in Syria and Iraq are asking the UN Secretary General to:

Ensure that the current and future legal frameworks in Syria and Iraq fully promote and protect the equal and inalienable rights of all their citizens, irrespective of race, religion or other status

Ensure the dignified and continued improvement of living conditions for all citizens, but especially for returning refugees and the internally displaced – including through the provision of adequate housing, education and jobs

Identify and equip religious leaders and faith-based organisations to play a constructive and central role in reconciling and rebuilding both Syrian and Iraqi societies

 The report is online

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