By: Ashur Sada
I don’t believe in dividing long established states, along ethnic and religious lines. Reason being that once you start, where do you stop? Virtually every country in the world is made up of different ethnic and religious groups. No country is 100% ethnically-homogeneous.
Having said that, it is becoming clearer and clearer that certain countries in the middle east are becoming too unstable and dangerous for certain religious and ethnic groups to survive. Specifically, Christians in the middle easy are increasingly and systematically being targeted by Muslim extremists, with governments powerless to do anything. In fact in some cases, even if they can stop this persecution, the government still turns a blind eye.
These extreme situations are becoming too hard to survive. With the lack of trust, safety and general regional stability, the already small Christian minorities in the region are getting smaller and smaller. Millions have been forced to flee to the west.
Not to mention countless others that have been killed just in the last few years. This can’t go on forever. Something has to give. Fleeing to the West is not and shouldn’t be the only option. Dramatic measures-given the dramatic situation at hand-have to be taken to reverse this situation for the better for Christians in the middle east.
How about giving them their own state? One where they will manage and be able to have full control of protecting themselves. Who qualifies for such a feat? Let us go through a list of countries that haven’t done a good job of protecting the indigenous Christian natives of their countries, that we have no option but to cut and slice through their national borders in order to protect this important segment of their demographics make-up.
The Christian community in Iraq (represented by the Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac , Armenian and other smaller groups) numbered some 1.3 million about 10 years ago or about 6% of the population. Since then, and following the US invasion, more than half have been forced to leave given the increasingly dangerous and desperate situation. Through violence and political marginalization, the Christians in Iraq are being squeezed by the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government in the autonomous north. Coupled with persistent targeting by radicals, the Christians don’t have such a bright future to look forward to. Ideally, any future state or semi-autonomy would be in the northern Nineveh plain region, a series of towns and villages where a significant Assyrian Christian population currently lives. It also happens to be the region where the ancient Assyrian empire and its capital once stood.
It keeps getting worse and worse for the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the largest Christian minority in the middle east. Numbering close to 8 million or about 9% of the population of Egypt, this ancient group has also been shrinking. And this has accelerated in the last few years, given all the political turmoil in Egypt, coupled with the rise of Islamist’ influence and popularity in the country. Just like the Assyrians in Iraq, the Copts in Egypt are extremely loyal to their country. But you can only take so much and eventually, you would like to have your own region or country to be able to control your identity, fate and safety, since the state is not able to do its job. Unlike in Iraq and given their bigger numbers, Christians are scattered throughout Egypt, though they do have certain pockets of concentration (including in the south, Alexandria etc.)
The brutal 2.5 years of civil war in Syria is tearing the country apart and making the situation in Iraq look like a walk in the park. And it is only getting worse. Christians in the country (Including Assyrians/Syriacs, Armenians and others) have been systematically targeted by the rebels and terrorists fighting to topple the current Syrian regime. They have already forced thousands of them to abandon their historical villages and towns, some of which they have been living in for literally thousands of years. Depending on what transpires in Syria next, if the unfortunate happens and the country is divided along ethnic lines, the Assyrians and Christians in general may get their own region or independent state in the north east of the country, near the cities of Al-Hasakah and Al-Qamishli. This is a region where hundreds of thousands of Christians already live, in addition to many others living in other parts of Syria, including in the capital Damascus.
There are other examples in the region such as Lebanon and South Sudan. In both of these countries, Christianity is either the dominant religion or close to a majority. For the new country of Southern Sudan, they were able to gain their independence
from Sudan, all the result of government and Muslim prosecution of the Christian south.
Future implications of new Christian states in the middle east
The creation of new states in the middle east along ethnic and religious lines may seem counter-intuitive to the idea of balancing the middle east and making it more peaceful. And it may cause further segregation. But in the long term, it will be safer for a lot of people. A middle east with more christian presence would only help to balance things out and that is always a good thing.
And this is not a foreign concept to this region, after all, the region was virtually all christian prior to Islam. And since these new countries will have Christianity as their official religion, and with no sharia law to worry about, they will be much more peaceful compared to their neighboring Muslim states. Terrorism will also be none-existent. These countries would be models of democracy, peace, stability and human rights respect for the rest of the region. And with stability and peace come economic development. Even for Israel, this would make things more safe and reduce its worry about having neighbors that are always at war with the Jewish state.
It doesn’t have to come to this and it shouldn’t. But it is becoming harder and harder for Christians to simply survive in the middle east, let alone thriving and having a good future. The rise of political Islam, terrorism and the absence of rule of law are making it impossible to have any hope for a better future. Such harsh conditions will make it necessary for Christians to have their own autonomous regions or even states in the future.
Remember, the middle east was only formed as we know it less than 100 years ago. Unfortunately, the original planners didn’t do a good job or at least didn’t envision how things would turn out. It may be time to look at these maps again and recreate them based on the new demographics and conditions on the ground.