From the Guardian:
Historian Tom Holland has noted how deeply ironic it is, that two devoutly Christian leaders, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, brought about, inadvertently, the final demise of Christianity in the Middle East by invading Iraq. Now the Arab Spring has proven the final knell, as Christians are all too easy targets for extremists and are living in dire jeopardy.
The major Christian celebrations are still national holidays in Syria, and this is testament to the fact that Syria has long been a sanctuary for Middle Eastern Christians. One of the oldest parts of Damascus is the Christian Quarter at Bab Touma. Islamic and Christian communities used to live side by side in such ease, that sacred spaces were shared. There was ethnic and religious tolerance, mutual respect and understanding. Now, along with so much in Syria, that harmonious co-habitation has been ripped apart.
Speaking about his deep concerns for the beleaguered Christians of the Middle East, has been HRH Prince Charles. At an inter-faith reception he said he is very troubled by what he calls the “intimidation, false accusation and organized persecution” to the Christian faith communities. It is a problem affecting Syria, Egypt, Palestine and Iraq as well as other Arab countries. The prince says it is no longer possible to turn a blind eye to the targeting of these Christians by “fundamentalist Islamic militants.”
The birthplace of Jesus and the founding site of Christianity now has less than 4 percent of Christians making up the entire population of the Middle East and North Africa; a number that has dropped dramatically over the past 100 years. Prince Charles sees this as a great threat to possible peace in these regions as Christians are renowned for their bridge-building capabilities. He himself had been trying to build a bridge between Islam and Christianity for the last 20 years, but these efforts have been beset by those with “vested interests” in destroying them.
The celebration of Jesus’ birthday is almost here once again… what is your gift to him this year?
If He’s your Elder Brother, I hope the least you’ll do—the least—is to pray for His favor upon our family throughout the Middle East.
My guess is that you can also do more, by looking for someone around you who is hurting. As an example, we’ve invited two widows to join our family for Christmas dinner… I’m sure you can find something similar.