Peter Leithart posted on the phenomenon of de-Christianization in the Middle East, citing insights from a number of observers. What is interesting is that US involvement has accelerated the problem:
George W. Bush, widely attacked as an evangelical warrior for Christ, accelerated the destruction of the ancient Christian presence in the Middle East. Once again, he stands in a tradition of well-meaning American idealists in this region, whose efforts to secure the future of these communities have contributed to the virtual disappearance of Christianity from the region of its birth.
Comprising at least 5% of Iraq’s population before the 2003 invasion, well over half of these Christians and others have fled their ancestral homes. As the country has stabilized in the past few years, the toll of violence against minorities and stream of refugees has continued. Even as the Shia-dominated Iraqi government has enhanced its control, it has done little to rein in the targeting of weak Christian, Mandean, and Yazidi communities.
Here’s the big picture, from the Jersualem Post: “…at the time of Lebanese independence from France in 1946 the majority of Lebanese were Christians. Today less than 30% of Lebanese are Christians. In Turkey, the Christian population has dwindled from 2 million at the end of World War I to less than 100,000 today. In Syria, at the time of independence Christians made up nearly half of the population. Today 4% of Syrians are Christian. In Jordan half a century ago 18% of the population was Christian. Today 2% of Jordanians are Christian.”
How are US allies in the region doing? “Christians are prohibited from practicing Christianity in Saudi Arabia. In Pakistan, the Christian population is being systematically destroyed by regime-supported Islamic groups. Church burnings, forced conversions, rape, murder, kidnap and legal persecution of Pakistani Christians has become a daily occurrence.”
Notably, the US has refused religious asylum to minorities from Iraq and Afghanistan, unlike similar conflicts in Somalia and other areas. Sarah Pulliam Bailey recently interviewed Ron Paul; this Q and A were of interest along these lines.
What about…religious liberty in foreign policy? How should the U.S. approach religious liberty issues in countries like Iran and Afghanistan?
By striving for perfection here and setting a good standard so that people would come and say America is a wonderful place. It’s free and prosperous, just like de Tocqueville said in the 1850s. America is a great nation because it’s a moral nation and people go to church. Others should look and see the results, but I don’t believe in the use of force. If you’re not a Christian, I don’t force you to go to church. The use of force backfires, it has unintended consequences. So you can only do this through persuasion and changing people’s hearts and minds, not the use of political force. Political force should be rejected in trying to mold the economy or mold people’s spirituality.
I note in passing that the death of Christianity is not the only saga in play; there are also strong hints of revival, particularly in Iran.