Our very own WRM has a piece up in the Wall Street Journal today discussing the lessons that history teaches us about the case of the modern Middle East’s persecuted Christians.
The story of the last 200 or so years of the history of the Middle East as well as Eastern and Central Europe can be characterized as a story about the breakdown of large, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional empires, as peoples struggle to form smaller, more demographically homogeneous nation-states; there are more than 40 countries where four empires once stood—Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire.
Nation-states have had positive qualities, but the process by which they were birthed has been exceedingly bloody. Watching the trends from the Greek Wars of Independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s to the Bulgarian Horrors of the 1870s to World War I, the breakup of these multi-factional states is marked by massacres, ethnic cleansings, massacres, and genocides on all fronts.
Unfortunately, that holds true in our own time: the violent hotspots making headlines in 2015 are in the ruins of the Soviet Empire and in the chaotic breakdown of the multi-ethnic states of Iraq and Syria. With ISIS and Islamist fanaticism in the region writ large ascendant, the warning is dire:
The process of murder and “religious cleansing” may well continue until, for all practical purposes, the Christians of these countries simply disappear. Other Christian populations in the Middle East have been almost entirely wiped out or displaced. In 1900, most of Constantinople’s residents were Christian; today, of Istanbul’s population of some 14.4 million people, fewer than 150,000 identify with any faith other than Islam.
The years ahead may bring a similar fate to other Christian communities, consumed by the fires of fanaticism. But the risk is not just regional: The loss of a meaningful Christian presence in the Middle East could further polarize relations between Christians and Muslims around the world—and bring us a step closer to the kind of “clash of civilizations” that no sensible person wishes to see.
Will the people thinking about how to keep Middle Eastern Christians safe take these lessons into account, or will we all make horrified but useless gestures as we watch the these communities be destroyed, in merely the latest episode of the greatest tragedy in human history? It’s not a fun question, but it’s one we are faced with. We encourage you to read the whole thing, in which WRM considers by what strategies these Christians are most likely to survive.