A two-day conference in Qatar earlier this week focused on the plight of Arab Christians and the threats they face through wars and conflicts in the Middle East, recognising there is “no magic wand” to deal with inter-religious and sectarian strife.
Bomb attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt and forced migration of Christians from Iraq were among the issues discussed by scholars during the conference, titled ‘Christian Arabs in the Greater Mashreq: Determinants of Continuity, Emigration and Forced Migration’, on 21 and 22 October, organised by the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.
The conference heard that addressing the issue of religious persecution is in the interests of all, including the Muslim majority in the region, and that there will never be social equality and peace between religious groups without democracy and rule of law.
“One cannot simply separate Christians from the rest of the Arab region,” General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies at the Doha Institute, Azmi Bishara, told Al-Jazeera.
The problem of minorities – namely their lack of civil rights – is the problem of the Muslim majority too, he said, and a solution can be found in “equal citizenship and democracy”.
Christians have lived in the Middle East since the dawn of Christianity and throughout that time have faced times of oppression and marginalisation. Researcher Marwan Kabalan told the conference that “today’s 14 million-strong Christian population in the Arab Levant is likely to fall to just 6 million in less than a decade”.