Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Monday, November 08, 2010
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.