When we think of the Arab world, we generally think of Muslims. But
according to Egyptian political sociologist Saadeddin Ibrahim,
around 21 million to 30 million Christians live in the Arab world,
which is between 7 percent and 10 percent of the total population.
Most are the remnants of indigenous ethnic groups who survived
Islamic conquests, whilst others are converts from Islam. They are
Copts, Armenians, Syrians, Maronites, Assyrians, Chaldeans,
Aramaeans, Arabs and others. From the 7th to the 20th centuries
they lived as conquered, subjugated dhimmis (second-class citizens)
or were killed as apostates. However, their rights were restored
and protected by law while Arab lands were under Western mandates,
for about four decades after World War One. But these rights have
been whittled away as the Arab states have gained independence and
progressively rallied around Arab nationalism and orthodox Islam.
The Egyptian author Magdy Khalil writes that Christians living in
the Arab world are locked in a downward spiral. ‘Christian
populations are declining, resulting in an erosion of their
political power, which in turn causes their conditions to worsen
and ultimately drives them out of their own homeland.’
In recent decades the Christian population amongst Palestinian
Arabs has dropped from 17 percent to less than 2 percent, according
to Khalil. He says, ‘The Israeli newspaper “Badiut Ahrunut”
reported that entire neighborhoods in Beit Gala, Beit Lahm and Beit
Sahur have been emptied of Christians because of the overwhelming
Islamic tide that has turned the Palestinian cause into an Islamic
issue, and the growing power of the fundamentalists who are
imposing their rules and views on the Palestinian community.’
Attacks against Palestinian Christians have been increasing despite
repeated requests to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to rein in
Muslim gangs. In February, a group of influential Palestinian
Christians wrote to the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, documenting
abuses against the Christian community. They detailed 93 incidents
since 2003, including murders and rapes. Some 140 cases of apparent
land theft also were listed, in which Christians in the West Bank
were forced off their land by a ‘Muslim land mafia’ operating in
league with Islamist militants and backed by corrupt PA officials.
There has been no response from President Abbas and Christians are
growing increasingly concerned.
One of the greatest difficulties for Christians in the Arab world
is their precarious, vulnerable position. Challenging the status
quo can be fatal, so Christians dare not speak out about their
suffering. While they have to appease, side with, and even flatter
their persecutors to preserve life, the suffering and fear is very
real. They desperately need our solidarity and prayers. In the
words of Habib Malik, who teaches history at a University in
Lebanon, ‘The future will remain bleak for Christian Arabs if their
plight continues to be neglected by the rest of the world.’
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
* God to give great wisdom, strength and courage to world leaders,
so they may influence Arab regimes to improve the plight of the
persecuted Christian minorities through the Arab world.
* God to take and use PA president Mahmoud Abbas as his instrument
to reform education; to disband and disarm Islamic militias; and
to secure justice, equality and religious liberty, for the sake
of all Palestinians. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
* the subjugated Christian minorities of the Arab world to grow in
prayerful God-dependence, solidarity, and grace, so they shine
brightly as living testimonies to a better way.
* God to look with mercy on the ‘Holy Land’ and the wider Arab
world, and bring saving, transforming revival to Arabs, through
a fresh outpouring of his Spirit that emboldens and empowers the
churches and breathes life into the dead. (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)
‘Lord, [we] have heard of your fame; [we] stand in awe of your
deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.’ (Habakkuk’s prayer, Habakkuk 3:2) Lord,
‘make righteousness and praise spring up before [these] nations’.
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS FACING GROWING PERSECUTION
Muslim violence against Palestinian Christians has increased over
recent years. In February, a group of influential Palestinian
Christians wrote to Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud
Abbas detailing 93 incidents of abuses against Christians since
2003, including murders and rapes. Some 140 cases of apparent land
theft were also listed, in which Christians in the West Bank were
forced off their land by a ‘Muslim land mafia’ that operates in
league with Islamist militants and is backed by corrupt PA
officials. President Abbas has not responded and Christians are
growing increasingly concerned for their security. They are
exceedingly vulnerable, quite voiceless, and in desperate need of
our solidarity and our prayers.
30-Day Muslim Prayer Focus (praying specifically for Muslim peoples
during Ramadan) commences in early October. Please visit
<http://www.30-days.net/> for details.
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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.