Leader fears for Middle East Christians

2011-11-02 22:29

Baghdad - The head of Lebanon's Maronite church said he feared for the fate of Christians in the Middle East if the Arab Spring brought "radical groups" to power to replace autocratic leaders.

Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, speaking in Baghdad during the first such visit by a Maronite patriarch, urged Christians not to leave the Middle East.

"I support the spring when it is a spring, not when it is a winter," he told reporters. During his visit, he attended a ceremony marking the first anniversary of an al-Qaeda attack which killed 52 people in a Baghdad church.

"There should be changes in all Arab countries. Dictatorships cannot survive today, we need democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of belief and worship...[But] I fear radical groups might take power and [bring] extremist rule."

He added: "We are with changes in Syria... and with reforms and human rights but we hope the price will not be the same as what happened in Iraq."

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the country after years of sectarian conflict.

Attacks on Christians in Egypt after protests toppled Hosni Mubarak in February also highlight the dangers many Christians in Syria fear they will face if protests against President Bashar Assad bring him down.

Church leaders in Syria say they support reforms but not the demands for a "regime change" which they say could fragment Syria and give the upper hand possibly to Islamist groups that would deny them religious freedom.

Lebanon's Maronite church leaders have had tense relations with Syria, and led calls for an end to Syrian military presence in Lebanon in 2005.

But since protests erupted against Assad in March many said Christians enjoyed freedom of belief under Assad's secular Baath Party.

Maronites, who have a presence in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus, follow an Eastern rite of the Roman Catholic church and number around 900 000 in Lebanon. Many more Maronites, possibly up to three million, live outside the country.

"We are against any [Christian] migration," Rai said. "We know that all the extremist and terrorist groups and foreign interference aim for this but we have to remain steadfast."

Under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shi'ite Muslim.

Rai said he came to Iraq in a show of support for Iraqi Christians. He urged the Iraqi government to take concrete steps to protect Christians such as silencing voices who call Christians "infidels".

"We ask the Christians [in Iraq] to be patient."

Iraq's Christians, who once numbered 1.5 million out of a total population of about 30 million, had frequently been targeted by militants since the US-led invasion in 2003, with churches bombed and priests assassinated.

  • Adam - 2011-11-03 00:26

    lets put it this way, if you just developed a new set of town houses, 500 in total, a massive new property, with a gold course in the middle, the entire development big enough to be considerd a small walled off town.... would anybody want the governing body of this complex to be directed under the influance of islamic law.... god no!!!! may aswell have burned your time and effort put into this development. now why the hell would anybody feel safe knowing their goverment are these people

      Dayaan - 2011-11-03 07:31

      The only people #Adam would allow in his town is Zionists since he does not trust anyone else. So no Christians also.

  • Fred - 2011-11-03 04:15

    Of course he should be worried. Although Christians, Jews and Muslims ostensibly believe in the existence of the same god, that same murderous god instructs them to kill each other because the praise and constantly flatter him in different ways. There is no such god so please, please stop killing each other.

      Dirk - 2011-11-03 05:47

      Fred, you are clearly misled deceived and fooled.The muslims believe in the moon god.Abraham is also somehow in the mix. But Jews and Christians believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ( The THREE generations) What separates Jews from Christians is the fact that the Jews, apart from Messianic Jews, do not accept that Jesus is the Messiah. Further more, anyone who has been baptised by the Holy Spirit, who has been born again, has no doubt in their minds. You may fool the ones who are tied to tradition, who have no relationship with Jesus, and sit in a church because their parents did so, but the ones who are covered by Gods armour, no chance.I always say that you have a better chance to convince me that the wife I have been married to for 34 yrs, does not exist, than my Lord and Saviour.

      Erica - 2011-11-03 06:24

      Fred, correction. God commands to love - even our enemies. Jews and Christians believe in the same God. He is the only True Living God. satan just flies under different banners.

      Dayaan - 2011-11-03 07:26

      @Dirk your comment "The muslims believe in the moon god.Abraham is also somehow in the mix." Shows that you are an ignorant bigot. Please for your own enlightenment please take in knowledge of Islam before coming up with such bullcrap. It just shows your ignorance as to religion. The next time Jehovah's Witnesses comes to your door ask them a copy of their book entitled "Mankind's search for God" it is an objective study in comparative religions of the world.

      Dayaan - 2011-11-03 07:47

      @Dirk if you have to follow your logic then the Star of David is not a symbol of Judaism but the God of the Jews and the Cross is the God of Christians and not a symbol of Christianity. You certainly have a weird logic saying "The muslims believe in the moon god."

      Dirk - 2011-11-03 08:29

      Dayaan- Exactly what I said. Religion is mans search for God- Jesus is Gods search for man. I would be very hesitant to receive any guidance from the Jehovahs Witnesses. Their "founder", Taze Russell, as in the case of Mohamed, distorted quite a few things.By the way, did Mohamed not have a 9-year old wife and me asking that, does it make me a bigot or a realist?

      Fred - 2011-11-03 08:59

      Sorry guys - before you start quoting scripture and telling me about gods - can you produce any evidence whatsoever that any in fact exist. Just a teeny weeny bit of verifiable evidence.

  • Lauden Kirk - 2011-11-03 08:08

    Why can't we comment on all news reports. Free speech??????

  • Lauden Kirk - 2011-11-03 08:11

    Religion is Satan. Jesus and god are the light love of the world and universe

      Fred - 2011-11-03 09:01

      Say what? I am keen to know more about these jesus and god fellas. Where do I get to see them or are they perhaps the result of fertile imagination?

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