Christians in the Islamic world – at best tolerated, more often than not discriminated against and in the worst cases even persecuted. In Arab nations above all their numbers are shrinking at a worrying rate.
Iraq, for example: Before the US invasion in 2003, Iraq was home to 1.5 million Christians. Now their population is estimated at 400,000.
In the Palestinian territories, it is estimated that 49,000 Christians still live in the cradle of Christianity, amounting to around 1.2 percent of the population. Around half of these live in the district of Bethlehem. There are only around 6,500 Christians still living in the birthplace of Christ itself.
The dominance of Hezbollah
In Lebanon too, where a century ago Christians still represented the majority, they are now in the minority due to emigration and the high Muslim birth rate. Only between 30 and 35 percent of the population are Christians.
In the view of historian Abdel Raouf Sinno from Beirut, this is first and foremost due to the economic and political situation since the end of the civil war. Addressing a conference held by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin, Germany, Sinno said that the Taif Agreement that ended the civil war in year 1989 withdrew many privileges from the Christians.
The emergence of Hezbollah, the movement that has dominated political life in Lebanon since 2006, triggered fears among Christians in Lebanon of a burgeoning Shiite fundamentalism, said Sinno.
"Many Christians and also Sunnis feel threatened by the extreme ideology of Hezbollah," he continued. The "Party of God" perceives the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, as the religious and political leader of the Islamic world.
By Bettina Marx; Translated by Nina Coo
[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]