Posted January 26, 2010
What is Happening to Christianity in the Middle East?
By John Allen
The National Catholic Reporter
In 2007, the World Council of Churches estimated that the Christian population of the Middle East has plummeted from 12 million to 2 million in just the last 10 years. A century ago, Christians constituted twenty percent of the population of the Middle East, while today the most generous estimates put it at five percent, and some say it's lower still, around two percent.
Daniel Pipes, writing in the Middle East Quarterly in winter 2001, predicted that within a relatively brief arc of time, Christians "will effectively disappear from the region as a cultural and political force."
A reminder of how perilous things can be came on Jan. 6, when Islamic fundamentalists opened fire outside a Coptic church in the village of Hagaza in Egypt, killing seven Christians on their way to Christmas services. (Following the Gregorian calendar, Christmas in the East is celebrated on Jan. 6). Bishop Joannes Zakaria, a Coptic Catholic, wrote recently in Oasis, a journal dedicated to Christianity in the Middle East and sponsored by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice: "Sadly, our Coptic community is continually struck and wounded ... I must acknowledge that there's a terrorist strategy, in an Islamic matrix, which aims to transform our Christian feasts into days of mourning and sadness."