Monthly Archives: June 2013

How Christian communities Die in the Middle East: The Sorry History of Armenia

Here is Part A of essay Three in the series: The Suffocation of Christian Communities in the Middle East from Paul Merkley, reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work.

Christian individuals, Christian families, and historic Christian communities in the Middle East

As we contemplate the imminent suffocation of the Christian community in the Middle East, we have to keep in view two distinct but related historical processes.

One is the ubiquitous fact of attrition – the steady whittling down, one by one, of numbers of Christians everywhere, owing to defection, some of it voluntary, most of it not. As the days go by, individuals raised as Christians, persuaded by the benefits of submission (that is the literal meaning of Islam, the religion of the powerful) are defecting from the Church.

The other process involves intact communities of Christians,  made up of individuals  who draw their social identity from belonging to a conspicuously separate body that has worshipped together in a language distinct from the common language of the region, using a unique liturgy, in buildings heavily decorated (by Western standards) with distinctive works of religious art that they have cherished and protected from Muslim contempt for  fourteen centuries.

How European Empires came to the Rescue of Christians and Jews in the Nineteenth Century

Here is Part B of essay Two in the series: The Suffocation of Christian Communities in the Middle East from Paul Merkley, reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work.

The “Discovery” of the Middle East in the Nineteenth Century. 

Historians note a conspicuous improvement in the situation of the Christians and the Jews of the Middle East beginning around the middle of the Nineteenth Century. The immediate cause was the “discovery” of the Middle East by the public and by politicians in Europe and America.

Ironically, modern re-discovery of interest in the Middle East began with an eccentric gambit of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1798, General Bonaparte, the hero of the campaign of 1795 to drive the Austrians out of Italy , took to his political masters in Paris (the Directorate) a hare-brained scheme to put the British Empire out of action by attacking and annexing Egypt . The plan was adjudged brilliant by the Directorate, whose whole motivation was to get him  off the political scene. Napoleon’s military expedition (1798-1799) bogged down almost immediately, and so Napoleon applied his usual remedy in times of disaster – he turned the project into something bigger and sold it again under an improved label. The new game plan was to conquer the Holy Land and break up the Empire of the Turks by liberating the Jews and the Christians of the region. Within weeks of the defeat of his armies by the Ottomans, aided by the British,  Napoleon fled the scene, returned to Paris ,  and picked up the usual reward of French generals after disasters – promotion. A few years later, he became the Dictator of France under the title of First Consul. About five years later, this self-appointed Messiah of Democracy had become the Emperor of the French and the Imperial master of Europe (1804-1815.)

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