Daniel Pipes- Contributor
Pipes is director of the Middle
East Forum, a member of the
presidentially-appointed board of the U.S.
Institute of Peace,
and a prize-winning columnist for the New York Sun and The
Jerusalem Post. His most recent book, Miniatures:
Views of Islamic and Middle Eastern Politics (Transaction
Publishers) appeared in late 2003. His website, DanielPipes.org,
the single most accessed source of information specifically
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Disappearing From Iraq
[Daniel Pipes] 8/27/04
are the Muslims doing?" asked Brother
a deacon at Our Lady of Salvation, an Assyrian Catholic church
in Baghdad minutes after it had been bombed. "Does this
mean that they want us [Christians] out?"
Well, yes, it does. Our Lady of Salvation was just one of five
churches attacked in a series of coordinated explosions in Baghdad
and Mosul on Aug. 1, a Sunday, between 6 and 7 p.m. In total,
these car bombings killed 11 people and injured 55. In addition,
the police defused another two bombs.
The timing of the assault guaranteed a maximum number of casualties.
August 1 is a holy day for some Iraqi Christian denominations
and because Sunday is an ordinary work day in mostly Muslim Iraq,
Sunday services take place in the evening.
bombings were by no means the first attacks targeting Iraq's
minority since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Others (according to the Barnabas
an organization assisting persecuted Christian minorities), were
bunched together at the end of 2003 and included a missile attack
on a convent in Mosul; bombs placed, but defused, in two Christian
schools in Baghdad and Mosul; a bomb explosion at a Baghdad church
on Christmas Eve; and a bomb placed, but defused, at a monastery
Also, Islamists have attacked the predominantly Christian owners
of liquor, music, and fashion stores, as well as beauty salons,
wanting them to close down their businesses. Christian women
are threatened unless they cover their heads in the Islamic fashion.
Random Christians have been assassinated.
have prompted Iraqi Christians, one of the oldest Christian
in the world, to leave their country in record
numbers. An Iraqi deacon observed some
months ago that "On
a recent night the church had to spend more time on filling out
baptismal forms needed for leaving the country than they did
on the [worship] service. ... Our community is being decimated." Iraq's
minister for displacement and migration, Pascale Icho Warda,
40,000 Christians left Iraq in the two weeks following the Aug.
make up just 3% of the country's population, their proportion of
the refugee flow into Syria is estimated anywhere between 20%
and 95%. Looking at the larger picture, one estimate finds
that about 40% of the community has left since 1987, when the
found 1.4 million Iraqi Christians.
Muslim leaders uniformly condemned the
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani termed them "criminal actions," while
the interim Iraqi government bravely declared that "This
blow is going to unite Iraqis"' they almost certainly
mark a milestone in the decline and possible disappearance of
This seems all the more likely because Christians, due mainly
to Islamist persecution and lower birth rates, are disappearing
from the Middle East as a whole.
- Bethlehem and Nazareth, the
most identifiably Christian towns on earth, enjoyed a Christian
majority for nearly two millennia,
but no more. In Jerusalem, the decline has been particularly
steep: in 1922, Christians slightly outnumbered
- Muslims and
today they make up less than 2% of the city's population.
Turkey, Christians numbered 2 million in 1920 but now only
a few thousand remain.
- In Syria, they represented about one-third
of the population early last century; now they account for
less than 10%.
- In Lebanon, they made up 55% of the population
in 1932 and now under 30%.
Egypt, for the first time, Copts have been emigrating in
numbers since the 1950s.
At present rates, the
Middle East's 11 million Christians will in a decade or
two have lost their cultural vitality and
It bears noting that Christians are recapitulating the Jewish
exodus of a few decades earlier. Jews in the Middle East numbered
about a million in 1948 and
(outside Israel) a
In combination, these ethnic cleansings of two ancient religious
minorities mark the end of an era. The multiplicity of Middle
Eastern life, most memorably celebrated in Lawrence Durrell's
is being reduced to the flat monotony of a single religion and
a handful of approved languages. The entire region, not just
the affected minorities, is impoverished by this narrowing. CRO
first appeared in FrontPage Magazine
2004 Daniel Pipes