A report by “Aid To The Church In Need” states that Christianity could become extinct in the Middle East within the next decade.
This is a sombre and grim prediction, and sadly it is likely that the Arab Spring and Western intervention in countries like Iraq and Libya has exacerbated the eradication of Christians, and other minorities like the Yazidis from the Middle East.
Saddam Hussain was a dictator and his regime was unpleasant, but the fact is that Christians under Saddam Hussein had freedom of religion, women were not forced to abide by any strict Islamic dress code and had rights, and his regime was a secular dictatorship.
The same was true in Libya under Gaddafi, which used to be Africa’s richest country before western intervention. Gaddafi ran a secular regime, women and minority religions had rights, and Christians had freedom of religion.
Libya’s economy under Gaddafi was relatively stable and because of this many black Africans from surrounding countries used to seek work in Libya, and Gaddafi used to encourage such immigration.
Gaddafi was also one of the few Arab dictators who actually shared some of the oil wealth with the people. Under Gaddafi Libyans had free electricity, all newlyweds in Libya received US$ 50,000 from the government to buy their first apartment and to help start a family, and education and medical treatments were free.
Assad, like Hussain and Gaddafi runs a secular regime, which gives rights to Christians and women, and Syria used to be a relatively safe country before the uprisings. I still recall the days when Syria used to be promoted as a tourist hotspot for Westerners because of its safety and the fact that the state was secular.
What’s so striking about the so-called war on terror and Western interventions is the that fact that they seem to be targeted at deposing the Middle Eastern governments that have secular dictators, while leaving Islamic theocracies like Saudi Arabia intact?
Fifteen of the 19 terrorist attackers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia and there Christianity is banned, and the possession of a bible and building of Churches is deemed a criminal offence. Women in Saudi Arabia have no rights and are forced to abide by strict Islamic dress codes, including the wearing of the niqab, and the state still carries out beheadings and crucifications. The similarities between Isis and Saudi are striking.
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state that runs a brutal regime that suppresses its own people It is also the birthplace of Salafi and Wahhabi Islam, the strand of Islam practised by groups like Isis and al-Qaeda. When it comes to the issue of radical extremism all roads lead back to Saudi Arabia, which has been implicated in the funding and promotion of radical Islamism, including the funding of the building of mosques in Europe promoting Salafism.
Despite the astonishing links and evidence of Saudi duplicity and links to jihadi groups, they alongside other Gulf States like Qatar, which is also alleged to fund extremist Islamist groups, continue to be the West’s supposed allies in the so-called war on terrorism.
Gaddafi, Hussain, and Assad all dealt with the jihadist threat brutally, but it kept their populations relatively safe from the scourge of militant Islamism. Running a secular government also made it impossible for a group like Isis to take control of the country.
Before he was overthrown, Gaddafi warned that the rebels were Islamic extremists and that support for such groups could lead to radical Islamism spreading across the whole of North Africa. Gaddafi also warned that the Mediterranean Sea would be turned into a sea of death because of the high number of migrants from Africa seeking to cross into Europe.
Secular regimes in the Middle East offered safety for Christians, but with the toppling of the secular dictators, Christians and other minorities are now at the mercy of Islamist forces.
Saudi Arabia wants Assad to go, but given that Christianity is banned in Saudi Arabia, a Middle East which is fundamentally transformed to suit the wishes of Saudi and other similar Gulf States is likely to be a Middle East without Christians and other minorities.
The Archbishop of Aleppo has welcomed Russian intervention in the Middle East in support of Assad, and has also pleaded with David Cameron to stop supporting the rebels in Syria who he identifies as the enemies of Christians.
There are no easy answers when it comes to the Middle East, and there is certainly no good versus evil.
If Assad goes and Syria degenerates into a failed state like Libya, it is likely that the next refugee crisis will come from Lebanon, which is likely to become destabilised if Syria becomes a failed state and a hotbed of jihadist activity. Such a scenario would also most likely lead to Christians fleeing Lebanon.
On the issue of whether Western-style democracy could flourish in the Middle East, I’m becoming more sympathetic to the arguments of people like Peter Hitchens who states that Protestant Christianity is what helped facilitate democracy and Western civilisation.
When it comes to the dealing with the Middle East, utopian idealism on the part of Western leaders can prove to be deadly, and for the Christians in the Middle East, they are paying a high price for the misguided actions of Western politicians.
Christians in the Middle East have been a stabilising force, and if they become eradicated from the region it would be a great loss to the world.