Although it has fallen largely on deaf ears, the plight of Christians in the Middle East has made some news, especially in Christian circles. I have written on the circumstances there, myself, and about how Muslim extremism is the main cause of escalating emigration, the destruction of Coptic churches, and the approaching extinction of Christians in the region.
Recently, however, my view of the problem was carefully challenged by a Catholic brother whose vocation is intimately involved with the difficulties in the Middle East. I began to research the topic much more thoroughly, even speaking to Christians in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. With a heavy heart I must confess I was wrong about a great many matters, and am guilty of ignorantly contributing to the real problem by spreading what amounts to propaganda.
When asked directly about the causes for the emigration and elimination of Christians from the area, Israeli and Palestinian Christians overwhelmingly indicate that the primary causes are political and economic conditions, not religious extremism. 87.3% of the respondents in a 2006 study of 1500 Christian families in Palestine and Israel said the same. Only 8% attributed emigration to religious extremism (pg. 34, Sabeel survey with Bethlehem University). The truth, it seems, is that religious extremism contributes, but not in the way I previously thought. More on that in a moment.
In their own words, many Christians in the area say it is not the movement of Muslims into the area or Islamic violence, but brutal economic conditions that proceed from the political climate between Israel and Palestine that are forcing Christians to leave and inciting violence.
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