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Saturday, October 15, 2011
Analysis: Mideast Christians struggle during Arab Spring
VENICE - Middle East Christians are struggling to keep hope alive with Arab Spring democracy movements promising more political freedom but threatening religious strife that could decimate their dwindling ranks.
Scenes of Egyptian Muslims and Christians protesting side by side in Cairo's Tahrir Square five months ago marked the high point of the euphoric phase when a new era seemed possible for religious minorities chafing under Islamic majority rule.
Since then, violent attacks on churches by Salafists - a radical Islamist movement once held in check by the region's now weakened or toppled authoritarian regimes - have convinced Christians their lot has not really improved and could get worse. ...
The Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, feared the three-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad spelled a bleak future for the 850,000 Christians there.
"If there is a change of regime," he said, "it's the end of Christianity in Syria. I saw what happened in Iraq."
The uncomfortable reality for the Middle East's Christians, whose communities date back to the first centuries of the faith, is that the authoritarian regimes challenged by the Arab Spring often protected them against any Muslim hostility.
Apart from Lebanon, where they make up about one-third of the population and wield political power, Christians are a small and vulnerable minority in Arab countries.
The next largest group, in Egypt, comprises about 10 percent of the population while Christians in other countries are less than 5 percent of the overall total.
Under Saddam Hussein, about 1.5 million Christians lived safely in Iraq. Since the US-led invasion in 2003, so many have fled from Islamist militant attacks that their ranks have shrunk to half that size, out of a population of 30 million. ...
Edited :: See Original Report Here
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