I am not a Christian—at least, not in a formal sense—but I do lament the fate of Christianity in the Middle East. Sadly, Christians once made up 20 per cent of the population, but now account for only about 2 per cent.
Christians have for over 2,000 years been associated spiritually and physically with what, to them, is the Holy Land for there can be found the origins of their faith. Now, after centuries of multi-sectarian, and tolerant history of Islamic culture, Christians find their presence there threatened by religious extremism, intolerance and the so-called clash of civilizations—not in small measure sparked by the one-sided support Israel has received from the “Christian” nations of the West.
Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in the Middle East on May 8 is his first visit there as Pontiff and has raised the hopes of many that the Christian exodus of the past 60 years might be stemmed.
However, it seems very likely that what remains of the Middle Eastern Christians have given up looking to the likes of the Pope for help. For, while the Pontiff has described his trip as a spiritual pilgrimage, his recent action in lifting the excommunication of Holocaust-denying British bishop Richard Williamson and the proposed sainthood of pope Pius XII, who Jews revile for his passive stance during the Holocaust cannot be helping Christian-Jew relationships.
And as we read at Time:
In Lebanon, the Middle Eastern nation with the largest concentration of Christians, roughly half of the country’s Christians have broken away from the sect's traditional, pro-western leadership, and have formed a political alliance with Hizballah, the Shia Muslim anti-Israeli militant group. The leader of these breakaway Christians, a populist former General named Michel Aoun, is betting that the only way to secure a Christian future in Lebanon is to look East towards the rising power of Shia Islam. It may seem far-fetched now, but there may come a day when Christians hit the Arab street to welcome not a Pope from Rome an ayatollah from Iran.
At a time so critical to the survival of a Christian presence in their Holy Land, it’s ironic that the spiritual leader of the largest Christian denomination could turn out to be the least helpful to that cause.Ω