Monday, July 31, 2006

The Declension of Mideast Christianity

I am terribly diffident about the quality of my judgement on the current Israeli-Lebanese conflict. Having little wish to play the armchair strategerist, I can only copy what others are saying. Via Daniel Larison comes a sad portrait of the regional conflict, and its American repercussions past and present:

I was a subscriber to the American edition of the Italian Catholic magazine 30 Days, and we were all shocked when the American publisher (Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.) decided to quit publishing the American edition when the Italians ran a cover story on Pope John Paul II's opposition to the [Gulf] war. (For those unfamiliar with the story, that was the genesis of Catholic World Report, which was given to American 30 Days subscribers to fill out the rest of their subscription.)


In the eyes of today's "conservative" American Catholics, the Christian populations of the Middle East--the oldest continuing Christian communities in the world--are simply invisible. Palestinians are all Muslims; there are no Melkites. Lebanese are all Muslims; there are no Maronites or Syrian Catholics or Orthodox. Ditto for Syria herself. Iraqis are Sunni and Shiite and Kurd; Chaldean and Assyrian Christians simply don't exist. And everyone who lives within the borders of Israel is an observant Jew.

This blindness on the part of "conservative" American Catholics is partly ignorance; even many of those who have heard the words Melkite and Maronite have no particular interest in trying to learn anything about either rite, must less trying to grapple with the history of these Christian populations or even being bothered to find out who lives where or how they worship.

More importantly, though, it reflects a growing political reality. Since at least the Six-Day War, the presence of Christians in the Middle East has been a sign of contradiction that has stood in the way of American and Israeli attempts to reduce the broad conflict in the Middle East to the dualism of Judaism/Israel versus Islam/Arabs. The inconvenient reality of Middle Eastern Christianity has been a stumbling block to remaking the Middle East in a particular ideological image.
Scott P. Richert, Chronicles Magazine

These allegations about Father Fessio and CWNews are new to me.

Also we learn that conservative great Russell Kirk's daughter Andrea Kirk Assaf has a weblog and a Maronite Catholic husband. She is reporting on her in-laws' sad afflictions as the bombs fall.

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