The last trench in the Middle East. In Lebanon and Jordan Christians are resisting desertification. For over ten years now it has been striking Jesus’ followers in the Fertile Crescent where religion was born. A true genocide which is taking place with “the shameful silence of the many” as Pope Francis reiterated.
In Lebanon, Christian population, mostly Catholics, which shrunk during the years of civil war in the mid-Eighties, now thanks to a formula of political acrobatics, can count on substantial numbers and especially enjoy the freedom of cult which has disappeared in other Countries of the region. In the church of St George, in the center of Beirut just a few steps away from the Place of Etoile where the palaces of power are located, the celebration of the holidays occurs with no restrictions. Not even the presence of Hezbollah limits the profession of faith, quite the contrary.
In the Bekaa Valley were built churches dedicated to Our Lady, celebrated in the Koran, and the relations between the different religious confessions are good. Along the coast, near the Christian district of Jounieh, it is not unusual to meet hawkers who promote the sale of holy statues representing the Virgin Mary and Saints. Above Jounieh there is a gigantic statue of the Virgin of Lebanon. Her arms are open and around her rise churches and monasteries which are the destination of pilgrimages and a great feast on the Easter day. To the south, where the military men from UNIFIL, guided by the Italians, keep peace between Lebanon and Israel in the center of a zone under the Hezbollah control is experiencing mutual solidarity between Muslims and Christians. They exchange aid, support each other and share
Jordan is a part of the Christian Holy Land and Madaba, the city of mosaics, hosts the church of San Giorgio, where you can admire a splendid mosaic in the shape of a geographical map which represents Jerusalem and the whole region till the Nile. It is a destination for pilgrims from all over the world. The same is true for the Mount Nebo, the place where Moses saw the Promised Land and where stopped his exodus. Here rises a Franciscan monastery. And there are lots of places of Christian memory brought to light by the Franciscan archaeologist Father Michele Piccirillo who passed away a few years ago. Excavations supported by the Jordan Princely House. Christians and Muslims coexist without problems in full freedom of worship and exactly in Jordan refugees from Syria and Iraq have found shelter.
After what happened in Iraq in 2003, when Saddam was overthrown, an exodus of Christians started there. In Iraq Christians constituted 7% of the population are now reduced to a few thousands. In Mosul lived 30,000 Christians, who since 2014 have disappeared and the churches have been destroyed by ISIS. In Syria before 2011, the beginning of the revolt against the regime, there were almost two million Christians, whereas now there are just one million of them. Israel and Palestine are involved in this desertification: in Israel many convents were expropriated by the government and the advance of fundamentalism in Gaza is reducing the presence of Arab Christians.
Western governments should search their hearts. With their 2003 war in Iraq and short-sighted support to anti-regime revolutions, they have contributed to this exodus. Christians out of the Holy Land and out of the Middle East. Expelled from Jesus’ homeland by hatred but also by the relativist denial of the politics of a certain West which claims to be Christian. “Persecuted with the shameful complicity of the many”.