Monday, June 25, 2007

Where are the Middle Eastern Christians?

It's a question to ask, and one which has a straightforward answer, considering that the Middle East was the birthplace of Christianity, which was a succesful faith. The answer, as given by noted scholar of Islam Frank Peters, who I was lucky enough to take a class with, is that the middle eastern Christians largely became Muslim. Sure, there are substantial Christian communities in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, but they're a distinct minority. However, the ancestors of many of today's Muslims in the Middle East were the people who converted to Christianity in the first centuries A.D.

This is an answer that doesn't jibe with the current propaganda surrounding Muslims, i.e. that Islam is a foreign, alien, thing, believed in by people of a different race who have always been Muslim, been a member of the Other, ignoring for the time being that Islam started in the seventh century A.D. The people who are considered to have no history that the group confronting them can identify with are the people who are most likely to be abused by the dominant group. Maybe if people recognized that many of today's Muslims are ex-Christians that wouldn't be so easy, even though it would be a shame that it might take something like tha to convince people to treat people in the Middle East with dignity and respect.

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