Although Christians have largely sought to remain neutral in the conflict, they have become involved gradually, some by taking up arms and others as victims of kidnapping and violence.
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III recently stated that, since 2011, more than 1,000 Christians have been killed and more than 40 churches and other Christian institutions (schools, orphanages and care homes) have been damaged or destroyed. Some estimate that 300,000 Christians have fled Syria.
Furthermore, fallout from relentless regional conflict is destabilizing Lebanon, a country that offers Christians a constitutional guarantee of political representation. About 400,000 refugees — many of them Sunni Muslims, including fugitive rebels — have poured over the border from Syria, exacerbating sectarian tensions and threatening to disrupt Lebanon’s delicate social and political balance.
Given that, as Gottingen University’s Martin Tamcke said, there is no remaining alternative for Christian refugees in the Middle East, they are increasingly heading to Europe and North America.
If this trend is allowed to continue, the Middle East will gradually lose its Christian congregations. In order to prevent such a tragic outcome, Western leaders must take a more active role in advocating the protection of Christian minorities throughout the Arab world.
Ultimately, Christians and Muslims in the Arab world have the same desires: freedom, dignity and equal rights. Those who are persecuting Christians should recognize that the Arab Spring should benefit all Arabs.
Fiorello Provera is vice-chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament.
Copyright: Project Syndicate