While Tariq Ramadan is hectoring Americans about “Islamophobia,” calling Muslims the new “blacks” in America, a synod is currently underway in the Vatican to save Christian communities in the Middle East’s Islamic countries from extinction. The flight of the region’s Christians to the West from the area where Christianity was born has reached such alarming proportions, Pope Benedict XVI gathered 285 delegates in Rome last Monday to investigate the phenomenon.
In his homily in St. Peter’s Cathedral to open the two-week synod, the Catholic pontiff called upon the delegates to scrutinize the situation with a “view to God” to ensure the region’s Christians can escape “discouragement” and “the temptation to flee.” The pope also indicated that the heart of problem lies in the threat Middle Eastern Christians face from Islamic radicalism, calling it, along with the international drug trade, “terroristic ideologies.
“Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God; but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked,” he said.
Among the synod’s delegates are 185 representatives from ten Middle Eastern countries (Turkey, Syria, Cyprus, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Egypt) including nine patriarchs from the Middle East’s ancient Christian churches. It was in Cyprus last June that the pope announced this week’s ‘Synod on the Middle East’. After a mass, the pontiff distributed its working paper, the Instrumentum Laboris, to members of the Special Council of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.
While in Cyprus, the leader of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics said the October synod will “try to deepen” the ties between the region’s churches and promote the solidarity of Christians everywhere with those in the Middle East. The synod’s other purpose, the pontiff said, would be to draw the world’s attention to Middle Eastern Christians who “suffer great trials due to the present situation.
“This is an opportunity to highlight the significant value of the Christian presence and witness in the countries of the Bible, not only for the Christian community worldwide, but also for your neighbors and fellow citizens,” he said in June.
Those “great trials” the Middle East’s Christians are enduring have been well documented. In Iraq, for example, the Islamists are cleansing the country through violence of all Christians similar to what the Nazis once did to make Germany “Judenrein.” In 1980, Catholics made up almost three percent of Iraq’s population, but only formed .89 percent two years ago.
A study by Phillipe Fargue, “The Arab Christians in the Middle East: A Demographic Perspective”, cited in Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch, states that the Christian population in the Middle East has gone from 26.4 percent of the area’s population in 1914 to at most 9.2 percent in 2005. An Egyptian newspaper, referring to Vatican statistics, recently put the current Christian representation for the entire region at a dismal 5.62 percent.