.- The situation in the Arab world has reached a point at which the further subjugation and persecution of Christians in Muslim countries, and the loss of freedom of Christians in Lebanon, where they number 40% of the population, looms large, says Habib C. Malik, professor of history and cultural studies at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon. In the latest edition of the online newsletter, bitterlemons-international, Malik points out that there have been historically two different narratives of the experience of Christians in the Arab world since the rise of Islam: on the one hand is the narrative of subjugation, experienced by 90% of Christians in the region, and on the other, that of freedom, experienced by Lebanese Christians.
Malik points to the Copts of Egypt who are marginalized and “perceived as a convenient scapegoat,” for both “an authoritarian government and radical Islamist groups,” Sudanese Christians who have suffered a 20 year civil war because of a government wishing to impose Islamic law on them, Iraqi Christians fleeing their homeland everyday due to the constant threat of Islamist militants, and Syria and the Holy Land where Christians are almost completely marginalized, as examples of the 90% of Christians who’s historical experience continues to be that of subjugation.
However, “in Lebanon, following 15 years of war that resulted in open-ended Syrian domination, the Christians, who number close to 40 percent of the population, have seen their freedoms steadily erode, their numbers dwindle, and their political influence shrivel,” says Malik.
“The future of Christian Arabs hangs in the balance today,” he says “the majority, which initially was offered order in place of freedom, is now being handed insecurity everywhere throughout the Arab world. Those few who risked everything to embrace freedom face, at best, an uncertain course as pressures mount to deprive them of what is left of their hard-won liberties.”
Malik warns that “the future will remain bleak for Christian Arabs if their plight continues to be neglected by the rest of the world.”
He lists three factors that will deteremine this bleak future: “if the so-called war on terror falters and fanaticism gains the upper hand against moderate forces in the Muslim world.”
“If something remotely resembling democracy does not strike root in a pacified Iraq.”
“And,” he concludes, “if the line of freedom's erosion is not held in Lebanon, where a homegrown exception to the freedom-starved regional norm managed to flourish in the face of overwhelming odds.”