New Struggles Arise for Christians in the Middle East

by Armen Grigorian

 

Christians across the Middle East are facing new hardships as the region continues to struggle through turbulent times. According to ETWN News, in Israel, the government has seized land from 58 Christian families living in the Cremisan Valley, which lies on the border between Israel and the West Bank. The Israeli government sees this area as a potential security risk due to recent conflicts regarding the West Bank, and has taken the Christian lands in question so that a wall can be built on the land to reduce any security issues. In addition to the loss of land, Christian schools in Israel are also in danger of disappearing. Despite laws stating that parents have the right for their children to be educated in any faith, the government is reducing funding to Christian schools in a way that threatens their existence. ETWN also said Christian schools in Israel have always only received about 75% of the funding that Jewish ones receive, so parents have been required to pay a small amount of tuition to make up for the difference. With funding now shrinking, parents are being asked to pay an increased cost of tuition, but since many cannot afford this increased cost they are instead opting to remove their children from the Christian schools. The combination of decreased funding and enrollment is threatening the existence of the schools.

The situation for Christians in Iraq is even worse. According to the Catholic News Network, the Islamic State (formally known as ISIS) has conquered more land in Iraq and is persecuting the Christians living there. Christians have been forced to leave their homes, while being robbed, tortured, and even executed for their faith. In Mosul, an area where Christians have been living for 2,000 years, the Islamic State has forced every Christian resident to abandon their homes and leave the area under threat of death. According to the New York Times, there are now no longer any Christians in Mosul.

 

As Christians have undergone their struggles the global community has not stood idly by. The European Bishops Conference, which normally gathers in Europe, held its meeting this year in Jerusalem to show support for the Christians living in the region. They also were scheduled to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the issues facing Christians in the region and try to work with them towards solutions.

 

American leaders have also taken action to try to aid Christians in Iraq. A bipartisan proposal has been introduced in Congress that would label the actions taken by the Islamic State against Christians, as well as other religious minorities as genocide. Sponsors of the resolution say that the targeting of religious minorities with the intent to permanently eliminate or displace them constitutes genocide according to the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. They are not the first to claim the actions of the Islamic State are genocidal. Pope Francis earlier in this year also used the word genocide to describe the actions of the Islamic State. These actions to support the Christian community that is dealing with these extreme hardships could go a long way towards helping them, but for now the final results of these actions remain to be seen.

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