SHAFAQNA – An insidious and barbaric war has raged in the Middle East – one which so far has failed to mobilize more than a few headlines since it speaks of the death of a faith and a spirituality, which principles our increasingly secular world system has been bent on ridiculing, to better negate.
While radicalism has been debated at length, while officials, experts and politicians have argued Islamization, and fundamentalism assigning all blame onto Muslims and Islam, little to no efforts have been spent towards assisting those religious communities facing annihilation in the Middle East.
Where Western capitals have called for more absolute interventionism: military, political and financial, the world has mostly kept mum on the dangers which have befallen Arab Christian communities. If hate and prejudices against Islam and its people have rolled on the tongues of well-thinking westerners, words have utterly failed them when it comes to decrying the murder of Christianity in the Middle East.
For all its political posing and grand declaration of moral stature, what has the Western world done towards saving and serving its faith, its brothers in Christianity? Understand that my criticism is not in any way directed at Christians in their faith, but rather their compounded hypocrisy as they have blissfully chosen to ignore the annihilation campaign which has raged under the impetus of the Black Flag army. Millions have been put in harm’s way … what aid were they offered?
As Churches and monasteries have been raided, as entire communities were forced to run before the vengeful blade of madmen, too few ever spoke on behalf of Christians in the Middle East, too few among the global religious community failed to recognize that it is the very edifice of Christianity and its long-held tradition Daesh is looking to forever erase. We are talking the disappearance of a faith which History has span over centuries. We are talking about the disappearance of a spirituality which has offered comfort and guidance for two millennia … we are talking about the negation of an entire system of thought and thus a piece of all our consciousness.
Whether or not most people identify as Christians, Christianity is embedded in our consciousness, like Judaism and Islam, Christianity echoes of the Word of God to His prophets, it speaks of redemption and compassion, guidance and mercy.
While I personally chose to walk another religious path, I nevertheless find myself in Christianity – if anything through my love and utmost respect for its central figures: Jesus, son of Mary and Mary herself.
Muslims, Christians and Jews share an undeniable history.
Muslims, Christians and Jews, are joined in their core beliefs, their prophets and their ties to the Middle East – as it is there, under the blinding sun of Arabia that God spoke to Abraham, guided David and freed Moses. There again that communities of old first came to the Word and converted en masse to God’s message. Will we today argue religious semantics as this heritage stands to bite the dust?
Will we argue religious ownership as holy relics and books are being defiled and forever lost to future generations?
Have we become so blind to our own ego-centric religiosity that we are prepared to allow for our common historic lineage to fall victim to the blind hatred of Wahhabism?
Christianity in the Middle East in is mortal danger. What are we going to do about it?
In April 2015, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia spoke of Christianity’s pending extinction at a meeting Greek Defense Minister Panagiotis Kammenos. He warned: “I regularly get reports of horrible crimes that are committed there against Christians, especially in northern Iraq. I have visited those places and I remember that there were many churches and monasteries there. The city of Mosul alone had 45 churches. Now there is not a single one. The buildings have been destroyed. Four hundred churches have been destroyed in Syria… The presence of the Christian minority was a factor that, in a good sense, brought tolerance and good relations between Christians and Muslims… Now Christianity is the most persecuted religion. The same is happening in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Northern Africa. In some countries of Europe, too, people are prohibited from wearing crosses at work, citing the need for tolerance, do not use the word ‘Christmas’, do not call Easter – Easter, saying just winter holiday or spring holiday instead.”
What has been done to remedy the situation? Not much I’m afraid. Rather than address the core issue of terror: this paradigm of hate, bloodletting and profound intolerance, Western powers have only offered repression and oppression, thus feeding the radical monster.
There is one voice though amid this carnage though which has spoken the loudest, that of Reverend Nadim Nassar, a Syrian Christian priest, whose courage, and grace in the face of bigotry has been inspirational. Rather than give in to fear and hatred, Mr Nassar recognize in Daesh, not the hand of Islam, but that of Evil.
Rather than blame Muslims for the villainy of a dogmatic minority, Mr Nassar offered solidarity and brotherhood to all those he knew lived under the fear of terror. I’d like to think that such is the essence of Christianity.
In an open letter to Muslims of the East, Mr Nassar offered more solutions to our ongoing Terror crisis than most politicians or heads of state put together. As It happens humanity might still be saved by the guardians of its spirituality …
He writes: “We will not be separated from you, and we have no home without you, because God has made our destiny shared, our pain shared, and our joy shared, and even our mourning is shared. If they displace us from Mosul, the holy Najaf will be our home; if they slaughter us in Raqqah we will move to Damascus; if Mosul and Raqqah fall, then Aleppo and Basra will witness that the Lord is one and His house is the house of prayer wherever it exists.
O Muslims of the East, we faced together the foolishness of the Crusaders, and the darkness of the Ottomans, and the greed of the West. Together we will go back to Mosul and Nineveh, Raqqah and Aleppo, we will fast Ramadan again and welcome the birth of Jesus at Christmas.”
Going against Daesh’s narrative of division and sectarianism, Mr Nasser anchors himself in those commonalities and joined history which all people of the Middle East share – a grand declaration of solidarity at a time when hate-mongers have claimed even the best of us to their rationale.
Should Christianity be lost to the likes of Wahhabism it is all of us which would be made orphans.
There is a war today which still rages on, and its fiercest battles will be those fought against faith … all faiths – refusing to comprehend that there is more at stake than geography, politics and natural resources will ultimately lead to our undoing.
By Catherine Shakdam – First published in the American Herald Tribune