5. 11. 2014 | News, Archive 2014

Triumph of moderate over radical Islam decisive for the survival of Christians

EMS Fellowship projects in the Middle East are threatened from all sides

"The future of Christians in the Middle East is inseparably linked to the future of Islam. The triumph of moderate over radical Islam is therefore absolutely decisive for the survival of Christians and other minorities in the region." Habib Badr, Senior Pastor of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut, expressed this conviction in Frankfurt this Tuesday.

Badr, Deputy Chairman of the Mission Council of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS), described the desperate situation of Christians and moderate Muslims in the Middle East. In view of the forced expulsions and gruesome murders by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and neighbouring countries, both Christians and moderate Muslims are urgently dependent on the solidarity of the international community. The war in Syria has killed 200,000 people and about nine million have been displaced either within Syria itself or to neighbouring countries. The flow of around 2 million refugees from Syria and Iraq is a major challenge for Lebanon and attacks on churches have created a climate of fear.

In the meantime, the appeal by Christians in the Middle East goes beyond the stage where they demand equal rights and protection from persecution, said Badr. Today, they are sending out an alarm signal that, if the situation continues as it is, it could mean the demise of entire Christian communities and historical centres of Christian cultures in the Middle East. Badr referred to the "urgent appeal" which the Evangelical churches in Lebanon and Syria sent out to their partner churches all over the world last September. "The presence of Christians and other moderate forces in the Middle East needs a well thought-out strategy. Only then can these communities continue to spread a culture of love, peace and human rights and promote pluralism in education and religion. They therefore make a significant contribution to repelling radicalism and violence and to strengthening the values of justice, peace and respect for others."

"Wherever Christians are persecuted, it is usual that others are also persecuted - Yazidis or moderate Muslims who believe in peaceful coexistence between religious communities," said Jürgen Reichel, General Secretary of the EMS, explaining the current situation. He described the solidarity of the international EMS Fellowship with its 28 members in East Asia, Indonesia, India, the Middle East, Africa, Switzerland and Germany. "The Fellowship tries to help where it can. For example, Syrian refugee children in the Johann Ludwig Schneller School in Lebanon, single refugee mothers from Syria in a tailor's workshop, children from internally displaced persons in the Syrian "Valley of Christians" with a pre-school, and victims of the last Gaza war in the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza."

But the EMS Fellowship projects are threatened from all sides, said Reichel. For instance, the 2014 autumn course for Syrian refugee mothers had to be cancelled because one of the conflict parties had spread the rumour that the IS could be transporting bombs in the bus from the refugee camp to the Schneller School. The local organisers hope to reopen the course in spring 2015 - in the meantime, they are utilising the time and funds available to renovate the kindergarten for the children of these single mothers. Reichel fears that "in the foreseeable future, there will be no forces of law and order in Syria based on the rule of law and democratic principles. We should therefore aim our efforts at maintaining the contacts that still exist and making new ones so that all groups of the population receive support. There is a real threat that Syrians - under different circumstances - could face a situation similar to the one in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge."

Press contact:
Regina Karasch-Böttcher, karasch@ems-online.org, Tel. +49 711 636 78 85, Mobile +49 178 62 000 52

Jürgen Reichel, reichel@ems-online.org, Tel. +49 711 636 78 21