Monday, November 08, 2010

Why Are Jordanian Christians Freaking Out After the Church Bombings in Iraq

Last week, militants linked to Al-Qaeda took over a church in Baghdad and killed 58 people. Following the attacks , Al-Qaeda threatened to attack Christians wherever they can be reached, which is serious threat because we know that Al-Qaeda, at least some of its loyal sympathizers, live in every single country in the Middle East. For any person living in Jordan it's easy to notice that Jordanian Christians are panicking after the attacks. But is that justified?

On a humanitarian level, those attacks are less tragic than many attacks on mosques, where the death toll is often worse. Just last week an attack on a mosque in Iraq left 63 people dead. The majority of the 100,000 Iraqi civilians who were killed since the US invasion of Iraq are Muslims. Outside Iraq, Islamic militants have just bombed a mosque in Pakistan, leaving 90 people dead. Worshipers in mosques and churches are usually unarmed people, minding their own business, who often pray for peace in their country.

Christians in Iraq have been treated pretty fairly under Saddam Hussein. Not that they were necessarily supporters of him, but the hardships Iraqi Christians faced were not religious-based, and were not very different from those encountered by Iraqi Muslims. Saddam put his trust in some Christians around him, including his vice president and personal guard.

Fast forward to 2003, the US invades Iraq. Since then there have been multiple separate attacks on churches leaving casualties, and some priests and bishops from different sects were kidnapped and murdered. It was obvious that those were not random attacks and that Christians specifically are being one of the targets of Islamic militants in Iraq. The church attacks last week were just a continuum of a series of attacks that are likely to continue. The majority of Iraqi Christians have already left Iraq, and it's highly predictable that they will continue to do so.

Make no mistake, even the most religious Muslims I know vehemently condemn these attacks and consider them unjustifiable. However it's hard for most of them to understand why are Christians in Jordan panicking over this recent incident.

Arab Christians have been feeling vulnerable recently, and Jordanian Christians are no exception. First, their numbers are decreasing significantly and that's attributable to several factors which we can't get into now, but it's a fact. Jordanian Christians used to constitute nearly 20% of the population in the 1950s, and now they're less than 5%. Numbers do matter. You feel less significant when there aren't lots of you.

Secondly, they are a minority, a well-treated minority, a well-respected minority, but a minority. Unfortunately their opinion or take on vital issues may be considered less important because they're a minority.

Also, many Muslims believe the most significant war taking place now is between Christianity and Islam, and that makes a lot of Arab Christians very uncomfortable because they don't want to be held responsible for the actions of the "Christian" Western governments especially in Afghanistan and Iraq and their support of Israel.

Then comes the under-rated Muslim-Christians conflict that's been going on for at least two decades in Egypt. All the events there have been underplayed by the Egyptian government but they were bad enough to get many Egyptian Christians to leave Egypt and allow some Copts in the US to tell stories, many of which may be inaccurate, of how Christians are being mistreated by Muslims in Egypt.

Even though, again, neither Islam nor the majority of Muslims encourage these attacks, they remain an attack by one religious group on another. It looks like Al-Qaeda, which a loose term nowadays referring to Islamic militants, wants Iraqi Christians out of Iraq and they're doing a good job with that. If they have their way they certainly want all Christians out from whatever land they claim to be Islamic.

Arab Christians, and certainly Jordanian Christians, are not an ethnicity or a group of people who want to live alone. Their culture, language and heritage is identical to that of the Muslim citizens. Jordanian Christians consider themselves Jordanian. They are protected by the Jordanian police, their borders are protected by the Jordanian army and their rights are protected by the Jordanian constitution and law. Unlike Shiites, Kurds or Jews, they do not seek to form a country of their own or be protected by a foreign army. Therefore, if they felt threatened, even if that threat came from a very small group against the will of the majority, they may start leaving the country in greater numbers and that would be a very hard decision to make. It doesn't take a mastermind to do something stupid. It just takes one dumb moron to be inspired by the al-Qaeda speech to carry a gun and shoot at a crowded church gathering or funeral or anywhere where Christians gather. Most Muslims can't do much to prevent this, but I hope they'll understand why Jordanian Christians are freaking out after the church incident and realize that it's not only that incident but whatever preceded it that's making them feel uncomfortable.


loolt said...

It's so sad that the Christians in Jordan feel this way. The feeling is totally understandable esp since Jordan fell victim to an Al-Qaeda attack not too long ago.

I also identified with your phrase about the Christians having the same culture as the Muslims in Jordan. I found the concept of 'interfaith dialogues' in the UK bizarre, because speaking to a christian in a 'specially' organised manner as if he/she was an 'other' was a totally alien concept to me after Jordan.

It angers me off that the madmen in the ME are having an effect :(

kinzi said...

Well done, Hareega. I may have to write a post.

Anonymous said...

It's disheartening that we have reached this point. I'm sad that the Christians in Jordan are afraid and I hope people start to wake up and realize that this isn't Islam, nor was it ever.

Great post!

Shaheen said...

for the time being I'll stop only on one point which is Christians number are decreasing in jordan.

you did not mention any reason for this decline, Christians are migrating ..for a better life in the west, not because of oppression and lack of freedom at home.

question, do you really ask ..why are Jordanians Christians freaking...
wala so2al istnikary meaning you find no reason for them to freak out.

Ehab said...

Well, you might know better, but I don't feel Christians in Jordan are freaking out. I feel they are living their usual lives; their problems (if there are any) unchanged since the last incident. I have some Christian friends, and they don't seem afraid to me... (very small sample, I know) Would like to hear from other people regarding this issue...

jaraad said...

Well said! Thanks for the insight coming from a Jordanian Christian about this matter. I very much liked your last paragraph.
It has been 9 years on going hunting mission for Al-Qaeda members. Yet, there is no sign what so ever that they are getting any weaker. On the contrary, the world is just fed up and they are getting more aggressive by attacking churches and sending bombed parcels.
Unless, we get rid of those criminals today not tomorrow no one is safe.

Hareega said...

loolt, good luck with the inter-faith dialogue. Crazy people have always had an effect in our region, regardless of what ideology they are following

kinzi, will be checking your blog

wintersamar, I think the majority do realize that fact, but they can't do much about it. It only takes one stupid person to make a lot of damage.

Shaheen, I asked it in the beginning and explained how many Jordanian Chrstians are thinking, and left you to make the answer. You can interpret the facts on your own and make your own conclusion

Ehab... they're not afraid in the sense that they don't want to go anywhere , but they are more worried than before to say the least. Every year they get a little more concerned than the year before because none of the inter-religious conflicts especially in our region are getting better.

jaraad, I think we'll always have such criminals, whether or not they're acting on religious basis or not. The problem is that they're becoming very organized, influential especially over the common man, and more educated and sophisticated than ever before. They're not just organization but hundreds of them.

Anonymous said...


a muslim and not an arab, i have always wondered - how different is different - christians in the west and in the arab countries?

i believe some of my christian friends (i am asian) don't even know that like islam christianity has much history in the middle east. they thought(by the way they looked at me) i was making up stories when i told them not all arabs are muslim.

Anonymous said...

As a Jordanian Christian, if I am not afraid at the moment, I should be in the next few years... I am sure that I will! But why?

It is only because of politics: The "crusaders" are not finishing their wars in the region. Moreover, Israel is going to continue its aggression on Palestinians supported by the western "Christians".

Where am I in all of this? I am just a local crusader spy! I feel it when my Muslim friend start whispering out-of-the-blue? It is as if there are subjects we Christians are not supposed to hear!

So, what if some teach that "Christians" are to blame for the destruction in the region? It is not a matter of being a christian or not, it is a matter that more and more people are totally depending on "religion men" to tell them how to manage all of their lives.

I can understand that you follow what religion men say regarding food, drinks, and clothes. But I can't understand it when it comes to following a few who prevents you from shaking hands with people of other religions or from greeting them in their "Christmas" or "Easter"!!!

Finally, I believe that to measure how open-minded a society is, you should look at how many people with different religions, political views, elasticities... etc. live in that society.

To give an example, in non-democratic countries, you only find few political parties - if any at all!!!

If we Christian left, and lets say that Christians are very horrible and destructive group of peoplpe... I feel sorry for my fellow Muslims... You lost diversity!

If I were to choose a country to live in, will I choose a country with the highest percentage of Christians? Or maybe Catholics?
Absolutely not! I want to live next to an Atheist... A Buddhist... I will not forget a "Jewish"... I have been hearing much about how "bad neighbours" they can be...

To me, living in a society full of "different" people is like heaven-on-earth!

Viva diversity!

Anonymous said...

P.S. I forget to thank Hareega for this interesting subject. Although I read about the killing in Iraq and watched videos about it, I didn't think much about whether I should be afraid or not!

Will there be Christians in the Middle East 10 years from now?

I highly doubt it! I look at the situation in Egypt and Iraq and think that it is only the beginning!

في مقابلة مع شاعر عراقي مهاجر إلى السويد، قال جملة أعجبتني: "العراق بلد الأجداد والأباء... السويد بلد الأبناء والأحفاد"...

بالنسبة لمسيحيي الأردن... "الأردن هي بلد الآباء والأجداد... فهل ستكون دولة أخرى غير الأردن بلد الأبناء

عزيز تنظيم القاعدة... نهرب للسويد مثلا؟
عزيز تنظيم دولة العراق الإسلامية... حكولك أنه بوش استشارنا لما بلش الحرب في العراق مثلا؟