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Christian Persecution in the Middle East

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

Christian minorities have a long history in the Middle East. While forms of discrimination are common with their minority status in these areas, recently this persecution has grown in intensity and violence. As a result, Christian populations have plummeted throughout the Middle East.

A Break Down of Christians in the Middle East

Christians in the Middle East often define themselves as Assyrians, Chaldeans or Syriac. These names reflect their ethnic heritage, prior to Christianity. When Christianity began to spread throughout the Middle East, it peacefully existed alongside established religions such as Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Druze, Yazidism and Mandeism. Within Christian communities in the Middle East, there are still varying denominations. For example, Catholicism is prevalent as well as Eastern Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Church of the East.

Islam Enters the Middle East

In the seventh century when Muslim troops entered the Middle East there was a gradual shift from Christianity to Islam. After establishing control in the Middle East, Muslim leaders declared that Christians were dhimmi. Dhimmi translates to a protected person. In their subservient class they were required to pay a tax for not practicing Islam called a jizya. However Christians were allowed to practice their faith, even when it was against Islamic belief. For 1,500 years Christian minorities were tolerated by Islamic states, this changed with the fall of the Ottoman Empire which was weakened during WWI and would collapse within two years of the War's end. The Ottoman Empire, also know a the Turkish Empire was a former was founded in 1300 and expanded through the 16th century before collapsing after WWI.

Discrimination and Persecution Escalate

Violence against Christians in the Middle East amounted to genocide, however it was not the religion that was targeted, rather the ethnic/national backgrounds of Assyrians who were overwhelmingly predominantly Christian. A genocide is a targeted and deliberate killing of a group of people generally based upon ethnic, national or religious heritage. A group known as the Young Turks were responsible for the deaths of at least 2 million Assyrians and Greeks. The Young Turks were a violent political reform group in the early 1900's seeking to replace the Turkish monarchy with a constitutional government. Those who survived moved south, settling in Syria and Iraq. Upon arrival in these regions, the dictators in power offered specific protections as many of these immigrants were well educated and had value. These protections were made to ensure that these Christian refugees skills could be exploited. While they were physically safe, they were not equal citizens under the law.

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