"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Last Supper for Middle Eastern Christians?

For well over a decade, some of us have watched the mass exodus of Eastern Christians--Copts in Egypt, Assyrians in Iraq, Catholics and Orthodox in Syria, inter alia--from the Middle East and marveled at the stupidity, complicity, and mendacity of Western governments who bear very considerable responsibility for the destruction and flight of Christian communities, some of which have been there for nearly 2000 years. Only in the past few months does the plight of Christians seem to have attracted a little more than passing interest, though I for one expect that absolutely nothing will be done. Western governmental inaction when it comes to Christian persecution in the region goes back more than a century, and is one long shameful record of doing damn all. When it comes to Western statesmen protecting Middle Eastern Christian minorities, the psalmist's counsel is superfluous, for no sensible person would put any trust in these treacherous princes.

Forthcoming early next month is a welcome study giving us more details: Klaus Wivel, The Last Supper: the Plight of Christian in Arab Lands, trans. Mark Kline (New Vessel Press, 2016), 220pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In 2013, alarmed by scant attention paid to the hardships endured by the 7.5 million Christians in the Middle East, journalist Klaus Wivel traveled to Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories on a quest to learn more about their fate. He found an oppressed minority, constantly under threat of death and humiliation, increasingly desperate in the face of rising Islamic extremism and without hope that their situation will improve, or anyone will come to their aid. Wivel spoke with priests whose churches have been burned, citizens who feel like strangers in their own countries, and entire communities whose only hope for survival may be fleeing into exile. With the increase of religious violence in the past few years, this book is a prescient and unsettling account of a severely beleaguered religious group living, so it seems, on borrowed time. Wivel asks, why have we not done more to protect these people?
And among many commendatory blurbs, we find this:
"More than any other recent book, this work sets out with absolute clarity and sometimes uncomfortable honesty the intolerable reality of life for Christians in the Middle East today ... a deeply intelligent picture of the situation, without cheap polemic or axe-grinding, this is a very important survey indeed."—Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge University

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