On October 7, the world was shocked by Hamas’ barbaric and unconscionable slaughter of over 1,300 Israeli civilians—men, women and children.
About three weeks following the attack that precipitated Israel’s developing military campaign to destroy Hamas—and Hamas’ on-brand use of its own population as human shields—the world continues to express moral outrage, spanning the spectrum from pro-Israel to pro-Palestine, and even pro-Hamas in some far-left circles.
While certainly alarmed and outraged by the gruesome attack by Hamas on their Abrahamic neighbors, Christians in the Middle East have remained largely quiet.
We’ve all heard the quote commonly—and erroneously—attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing.” This begs some questions: Do Christians in the Middle East lack moral clarity? Does their silence implicate them in the triumph of evil? The answer on both accounts is a resounding “no,” and here’s why.
In the Christian tradition, moral clarity is a necessary virtue. In the West, the freedom to boldly declare moral truths is a categorical expectation (woke cancel culture notwithstanding). The ability to openly profess and manifest moral clarity is a blessing inherent in the egalitarian social contracts of the West, characterized by Enlightenment values founded in the Christian faith.
The faith tradition of Christians in the Middle East elevates moral clarity just the same, as the Christian faith and values find their roots in the pre-Islamic Middle East. The bold declaration of such convictions, however, is a luxury many Christians in the Middle East cannot afford. Their precarious circumstance as a population perpetually under existential duress, wedged between totalitarian Arabist regimes and genocidal Islamist zealots, forces them to prioritize survival.
Christians in the Arab world find themselves in an unenviable position requiring them to resist the urge and inclination to condemn Arab misbehavior, or—God forbid—demonstrate sympathy for Israel, lest they be tagged as “agents of the West” or, the most dangerous pejorative of all, “Zionist collaborators.” Christians in the Middle East are forced to parrot the Arab party line, as ill-fated participants in a perpetual and pervasive hostage video to the world.
Christians in the Arab world are held to a political litmus test by their host governments and societies. What’s more, Arabist regimes go to great lengths to construct and maintain the illusion of the political free agency among Christians. Of course, to characterize the dilemma of Christians in the Middle East simply as a precarious political situation is not enough. While the quandary manifests politically, it is rooted in religious ideology, and its effects are existential.
The West must remain mindful not to impose its own political paradigm—and litmus test—onto this persecuted Christian community under duress and on the existential brink. Doing so would be to ignore their ominous reality.
In the United States, we are accustomed to navigating a neatly ordered, two-sided political aisle, based on a constitutional social contract. Christians in the Middle East, however, are required to navigate a political spider web, dominated by a plethora of conflicting factions, each ready to step on the backs of—or slaughter—minorities to maintain hegemony.
Christians of the Middle East live in a tough neighborhood. Unlike their coreligionists in Israel who live as free, full citizens of a sovereign state, Christians in the Arab world exist as tolerated Dhimmi (non-Muslim subjects of Islamic societies) at best—if spared from active persecution—in their ancestral homeland. Christians in Israel proudly serve as IDF officers and as elected officials, while Christians in Arab states are often appointed to nominal positions as a hollow demonstration of tolerance—a classic form of “Arab Christian” tokenism.
The grim reality is that Christians of the Middle East have been forced to abdicate their free agency for any chance of survival. Christian community leaders and clergy in the Middle East exert painstaking effort to maintain their communities’ existential buoyancy and should be shown grace for not always making bold public expressions of indignation against the crimes of their oppressors. Even at the pulpit, Christian clergy have their statements—and omissions—closely scrutinized by Arab intelligence services and Islamist enforcers.
Like the Jews, Christians of the Middle East are too familiar with tragic atrocities. The persistent fear of such episodes, derived from a keen sense of history, is a morbid inoculation which continues to define the daily reality of both Jews and Christians in the Middle East. Unlike the Jews, however, Christians in the Middle East are stateless, and remain at the mercy of hostile hosts who deny them the ability to openly express moral convictions and criticism. As such, Christians in the Middle East rely on their Western champions to speak their conscience and be their voice. It is our duty and moral imperative.