Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, December 01, 2006

Curtailing the decline of Christianity in the Middle East

Curbing the growing marginalization of non-Muslims in the Middle East can help to stem the rising tide of dangerous Islamic radicalism in the Arab World, according to Lebanese scholar Habib Malik. Malik, who spoke Thurday evening at the Hudson Institute, indicated that bolstering dwindling communities of religious minorities, particularly Christians, in the Middle East, can serve U.S. interests and help to stabilize the region.

Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious group in the Arab world, are disappearing in the Middle East for a number of reasons including: poor socio-economic prospects, regional political instability, and heightened restrictions on political and religious freedom. Additionally, many are trapped between oppressive regimes and militant Islamists. Consequently, numerous Christians have emigrated to the West in search of greater tolerance and economic opportunity.

According to Malik, halting the Christian decline in the region entails promotion of three key principles: “moderation, mediation, and mutuality.” Moderation constitutes enabling the existence of stable and prosperous indigenous Christian communities that can temper sentiments of radicalism among neighboring Muslims and promote regional pluralism, creating a new breed of more tolerant Muslim. In mediation, Christians can serve as intermediaries between the West and the Middle East, disseminating beneficial Western democratic values within the region. Lebanon’s French-style liberal democracy exemplifies the benefits of mediation, and Malik argues that the principle must be built upon. Mutuality or reciprocity, which has been a key point of emphasis throughout the Turkish tour of Pope Benedict XVI, entails ensuring that Christians in the Middle East are afforded the same right to worship as Muslims in the West.

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey also spoke at the event, and noted the utility of drawing on “institutions of reasons” such as the Loya Jirga in Afghanistan, for democracy promotion in the Arab world. Woolsey also noted the severe brutality of the Syrian regime and warned that both it and Iran pose a major threat in the region.


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