Life for Christians in the Middle East at the moment is anything but peachy. They find themselves persecuted, tortured, and beheaded at the hands of fanatical Islamist militants simply because they are believers in Christ.
As the conflict spreads across massive swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, the members of the latest ethnic group to find themselves threatened by ISIS are the Christians of Lebanon.
One villager spoke to reporters as he drove through the streets of his village, Qaa, with an assault rifle next to him.
“We all know that if they come, they will slit our throats for no reason.”
The Lebanese Christians, who have resided in their villages for centuries, have observed with mounting alarm what has happened to other Christians at the hands of the Islamic State (or ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. They worry about the future, with many people fearing it to be more of a case of when than if.
The Miami Herald reported yesterday that for the first time since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990, Lebanese Christians are rearming and setting up defensive units to protect themselves. This is an indication of the growing anxiety over the expanding reach of radical Islamic groups in the region.
In Iraq, thousands of Christians have already fled from their homes after they were faced with the devastating choices of leave, convert to Islam, or die. For the first time in centuries, Iraq’s Ninevah region and the provincial capital of Mosul have been emptied of Christians.
After they were driven out ISIS, spray-painted their houses with the letter “N” for “Nasrani” — an archaic term used to refer to Christians — marking the homes as Islamic State property.
Worldmag.com reported that numerous Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria are now sheltering in Lebanon, a country which has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East. Lebanon is also the only Arab country with a Christian head of state.
Amir, a 41-year-old Christian who came to Lebanon last year from Syria, said he is now looking for work in Lebanon, staying with his brother in a Christian area north of Beirut, and considering whether to apply for immigration.
“I don’t want to give up on Syria, but I want my children to grow up feeling safe. I want them to grow up in a place where they can proudly make the sign of the cross without fear.”
The fate of the Christians remaining in Iraq and Syria, as well as those in Lebanon, will be decided when ISIS come to town. Unfortunately, Christians have much to fear.