Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Apropos This Week's Cover, An Interesting Piece in the NYT re Waning Influence of Christians in the Middle East
This morning's New York Times has an interesting story about the waning influence of Christians in the Middle East, noting that many have immigrated, similar to the experience Tom Joubran describes in this week's cover story.
"Christians used to be a vital force in the Middle East. They dominated Lebanon and filled top jobs in the Palestinian movement. In Egypt, they were wealthy beyond their number. In Iraq, they packed the universities and professions. Across the region, their orientation was a vital link to the West, a counterpoint to prevailing trends.
"But as Pope Benedict XVI wends his way across the Holy Land this week, he is addressing a dwindling and threatened Christian population driven to emigration by political violence, lack of economic opportunity and the rise of radical Islam. A region that a century ago was 20 percent Christian is about 5 percent today and dropping."
"With Islam pushing aside nationalism as the central force behind the politics of identity, Christians who played important roles in various national struggles find themselves left out. And since Islamic culture, especially in its more fundamental stripes, often defines itself in contrast to the West, Christianity has in some places been relegated to an enemy — or least foreign — culture.
“Unless there is a turn toward secularism in the Arab world, I don’t think there is a future for Christians here,” said Sarkis Naoum, a Christian columnist for the Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar."