Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Saturday, April 22, 2017



Last Sunday was Easter. All across the world, Christians came together for one of their most important holidays. Pope Francis spoke at the Vatican. President Trump hid eggs in Washington DC.  Filipinos nailed each other to crosses. However, there is one place where celebrations were definitely muted. Sadly, it's the same place where Jesus Christ spent his entire life: The Middle East.

Exactly two hundred years ago, a 17-year-old named Jesus first began preaching about a new faith. After his death, conversion began rapidly. By the year 200 AD, over two million people believed. In the Middle East, Christianity replaced Roman deities and pushed Zoroastrians into the desert. However, things changed dramatically in the 700's, with the coming of the Prophet Mohammed's first jihad. Almost everyone became Islamic. Christian populations plummeted at first, but stabilized after Sunnis became more tolerant. As expected, Christians settled in the more arid regions and had limited rights under the Caliphates.

Despite this, when the new millennium began seventeen years ago, an estimated 20 million Christians still lived in the Middle East. They are not Catholic or Protestant. Rather, they hail from ancient branches of the faith that Americans are not familiar with. The largest is the Coptic Orthodox Church, which commands 8 million followers...10% of Egypt's population. As the oldest branch of Christianity, it dates back to 42 AD, when the Apostle Mark came to Alexandria. ISIS has been aggressive hating the Coptics lately. They killed 58 people in church bombings on Palm Sunday. Hence, there was not much merriment on Easter this year in Egypt.

Also not having much fun on Easter this year are the 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq. The Chaldean sect is unfortunately based in Mosul, an ISIS base city. They fled and for the last four years they have been living in refugee camps, awaiting word if they can return. Although Mosul was liberated from the evil group last month, Shi'ite forces are in control of the city today. Sadly, they are not as welcoming as the Sunnis of Saddam. Likewise, the Assyrian Orthodox was largely protected under Bashar al-Assad, but faced executions under ISIS and rebel groups.

In short, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 succeeded in a goal not seen much by the outside world: Discrimination against Christians in the Middle East. The ensuing invasion of Iraq by the USA has been horrifyingly difficult for the Chaldeans, and their lives have been further marginalized. The instability in Syria has also been tough on Christians. Finally, the rise of ISIS has resulted in 400 deaths of Christian Coptics in Egypt. The outside world seems oblivious, and just assumes that everyone in the Middle East is Islamic. What would Richard the Lionhearted think?

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