April 8, 2020
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The End of Christians In The Middle East? – Religion Documentary


(singing in foreign language) – [Voiceover] Amid the
chaos in the Middle East, Christians are
disappearing, and the West, which owes them the foundations of their culture,
is looking away. The history of Christians in the Middle East,
spans 2,000 years. Their churches date
from the first century, when Europe was still pagan. They were there before the
advent of Islam, discriminated under all regimes,
often persecuted, they nevertheless, survived. In the early 20th century,
in the Middle East, one in four people
were Christians. Today, they are only 11 million,
among 320 million Muslims. They are in the minority
everywhere, forced to seek protection from those
in power, in order to survive. Their history in Iraq, Turkey,
Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria, reveals the reasons, for
their marginalization, and demonstrates the
fragility of their situation. In the fire that is engulfed
this part of the world, for the Western
powers, the Christians do not have any strategic value. Do they still have a future,
on the land where they began? – [Voiceover] Who were the
Christians in the Middle East? What’s amazing is that the
very idea of Christians in the Middle East surprises us. What should be surprising
is that there are Christians in the West, because
Christianity was
born in the East. It is a religion that
originated in Asia, Palestine. Therefore, Christians in the
Middle East, are the Christians who were originally
there, in Palestine, and stayed and developed there. These are obviously
the early Christians, the immediate disciples
of Jesus Christ. Then, the first communities that were created around Jerusalem. Damascus, Alexandria,
Antio, while we, the Gauls, were in our trees,
with the druids. So, we shouldn’t be astonished
by Eastern Christianity, but more by Western
Christianity. – [Voiceover] The spread
of Christianity begins with the apostles, but it’s
with St. Paul of Tarsis, who evangelizes much
of the Eastern basin of the Mediterranean,
that the church is born. St. Peter creates the
first church in Antioch. St. Mark reaches
Alexandria by sea, and is at the origin
of the Copts of Egypt. St. Thomas, the unbeliever,
crosses Mesopotamia and Persia, to arrive
in Kerala, India, where he founded the church, and converted
thousands of Indians. At first, the message of
Christ is taught in homes, and then spreads
from town to town, through merchants and
converted soldiers. The East is the origin
of Christianity, with over two billion followers,
it’s the main religion in the world, and also,
the most persecuted. Thousands of
Christians are killed every year, because
of their faith. A major reason for the
threat, that now hangs over Eastern Christianity,
is its identification with the West, which is perceived
as hostile and controlling. Christians in the Middle East, are divided into two main types. Catholics, that are
faithful to Rome, and the others, which
are independent, divided into several churches,
each obeying a patriarch. There are six different rites. The Byzantine, Armenian, Syriac, Chaldean, Maronite, and Coptic. (exotic music) Although Christians in
the Middle East represent a small number, compared to the total number of
Christians in the world. The risk of their disappearance
is a universal tragedy, because they are
living witnesses of the origins of Christianity. – It’s true that, very
often, in the West, we forget these
communities exist. When we remember them, we
are embarrassed by them. Particularly, it’s a paradox,
that they’re often persecuted in their own
countries, because they are seen to represent the West. But in the West, in secular
lay politics, they’re very often ignored, precisely
because they’re Christian. – [Voiceover] From the
early 20th century, the West actually fuels the desire of
Christians, in the Middle East, to form themselves into
independent nations. But each time, the West
betrays those expectations, and doesn’t go on to
fulfill its promises. To understand Christians
in the Middle East, we need to understand that they
have always been caught between the West on one
side, and Islam on the other. It has been like
this for centuries. – [Voiceover] The Christians did not arrive at any given time. They were the original
citizens of these countries, who then went on to
welcome Islam and Muslims. – [Voiceover] Some people,
including the so-called Daesh, believe that ultimately,
these Christians should not live in this region. Either they convert to Islam, they leave, or they
should be killed. – [Voiceover] The emergence
of the Islamic State, in the heart of Iraq and Syria,
and its desire to establish a caliphate, in which Christians
no longer have their place, has immersed Christians
in a fierce war. In June, 2014, Daesh troops
broke through the Nineveh plain, and seized Mosul,
Iraq’s second city. After some
hesitation, Christians fled to the east,
towards Kurdistan. – [Voiceover] I left everything
behind me in Nineveh, where my ancestors were born,
where my history is from. I struggle to bring myself to
leave, but I had no choice. I certainly did
not want to leave the city, where I had grown up. I was torn from my city
and its beautiful river. I grew up in a mixed city, where there were
lots of communities. Anyway, by making me leave
the places that made up my history, and that of my
ancestors, Daesh killed me. – [Voiceover] I think
the question of the
end of Christians in the Middle East, was
actually raised a long time ago. This is a question that
was raised from the time of Saddam Hussein, as
this Christian population, often depicted as representing
the Ba’athist regime, bore the brunt of oppression,
and authoritarianism in Iraq, and were, in fact, victims
of history, very early on. – [Voiceover] Under
the Ba’athist regime
of Saddam Hussein, Christians were not
perceived as a threat. They represented a
population of one and a half million
people, and some held positions of
high responsibility. But, Christians were
the first victims of the collapse of power,
after the US invasion of 2003. – [Voiceover] When the
Americans entered Iraq, which was not a complete
success, to say the least, the US President at the time said, “We are the
new crusaders.” This phrase caused the deaths
of hundreds of Christians, accused of being friends
of the Americans. – [Voiceover] So, after
being seen as collaborators with Saddam Hussein’s
regime, in the minds of the Sunni
insurgents, Christians became collaborators
with the Americans. From 2004, 2005, we
saw a rise in attacks, especially jihadist
violence against the people, and against the churches, which
are systematically attacked, against a number of dignitaries, who are killed,
murdered in cold blood. The fall of the regime,
precipitates what we could call, the extinction of the
Christian presence in Iraq, but is really the extinction of
Iraqi society, more generally. – [Voiceover] Housed
in half-built building, made available by the
Kurdish authorities, this refuge camp on
the outskirts of Erbil, was established in autumn, 2014. It is home to 2,000 people, mostly Christians,
but also Yezidis. For Father Najeeb Michael,
a Dominican-Iraqi exiled to Kurdistan, it
is essential not to separate
different minorities. – [Voiceover] We lived in
Bartella, when Daesh arrived. They said, “Go home,
there’s nothing to fear.” After a month and
a half, they asked us to convert to
Islam, I said, “No.” They said, “It’s either you, “or your husband,
or your children.” My husband said, “Go with
the kids, I’ll stay here.” They took my husband,
and to this day, I do not know where he is. I have three children
and no salary. I have nothing. My life is very difficult,
and my little girl is sick. Members of Daesh banged
her head against a wall. I feel bad for my
children, and I do not know if my husband is alive or dead. Some say that he is dead,
others say that he is alive. I just do not know. – [Voiceover] I am professor
and head of department at the Institute of
Fine Arts in Masul. There are five
people in my family. There’s a well-prepared
plan to remove the Christian population
from the region. How long will the Christians
put up with the orders and myths of the Islamic
State, saying the Christian is an infidel, that the
Christian is this or that? We’ve suffered a lot, we’ve
suffered for centuries, so we want to ensure the
future of our children. – [Voiceover] In its
eradication frenzy, the Islamic State also
attacks the culture of any people that
preceded Islam. So, for the Daesh,
everything that predates the arrival of Islam,
must be destroyed. – [Voiceover] Since the
arrival of the Islamic State in Masul, I felt that there
was a threat to culture. On the night of the 6th of
August, I brought a big truck, in which I put
everything we have. Thousands of manuscripts,
and thousands of important documents,
paintings, et cetera. I left with with the
truck, and went through three checkpoints, without
anyone asking what was inside. I felt that providence
and Heaven were with us. Leaving the city, we saw
kilometers of people running, especially children,
including those who were bedridden,
old men and women. So, we stopped, and filled
up the cars, putting people on top of our
manuscripts and archives, until they were totally full. It was like Noah’s Ark. There we were, at
daybreak, at the Kurdish checkpoint in Kalak. It was 5:30 am,
we could not move. The borders were
closed, and a young man said to me, “My Father,
look to your right.” So, I looked, and there
was a swarm of Daesh cars, with black flags hanging around. We didn’t know where to go. The borders were closed for
cars, as a matter of security. After talking with the soldiers, they eventually let
us leave on foot. But, what do I do
with the thousands of documents I
have in both cars? I asked people to help
me take what they could, so I gave manuscripts
and archives to everyone. Even people I didn’t know. I asked, “Please, can you
just help us to get them “to the other side
of the checkpoint?” There were even children
carrying manuscripts that were a thousand years
old, children who were carrying their
history in their hands. They ran on foot,
across the checkpoint. It was a real exodus. – [Voiceover] All of
our church’s history, started in Baghdad, in Babylon. I feel like I have a mission. I am not just a patriarch
for the Kalyans, but for all Christians,
as well as for Muslim, even if there aren’t many
Christians left, or very few. I’m here because I’m not just
a patriarch for a small herd. I believe that Muslims
have much more need of me, as a Christian,
than Christians do. (birds chirping) (dramatic music) – [Voiceover] The real question
is what to do on the ground, to assist those
that are prepared to fight the jihadists,
the Islamic State? Particularly, how to
go about doing this, because the reality, is that
there aren’t many people left on the ground today. There are mostly militias. – [Voiceover] The front
line that extends from north to south of Iraqi Kurdistan, is essentially,
a defensive line. It is held by Kurdish
Peshmerga, in which some Christian militias,
and international volunteers, are also fighting. – My name is Selgur
Daniel, I’m from Dhok. I came here to join
Youk-na-shai, I
joined in December. I used to sell bread
to the markets, yeah. Before that, I was geologist. We Christians, most of
us, are peaceful people. We just like peace, and be safe. We don’t like fight
any other peoples, but that’s enough, I
think this is enough. We must do something. We mustn’t stay at home,
and not doing anything. I’m staying here so
other Syrians see me, watch me what I
am doing, so maybe they come back, and
be in their homeland, because this our homeland. – [Voiceover] Without
local organization, Christians have no future. Without a compromise
in the region, between major regional
powers to stop the bloodshed, Christians have no future on a larger scale, in
the Middle East. – [Voiceover] I think there
should always be a place for Christians, and other
religious minorities, or the Middle East will lose a
lot of what it currently has. The majority of Muslims, the
so-called moderate Islam, is aware that the region of
the Near and Middle East, is the birthplace of the
great, sacred religions. They know that if
Christians were not there, they would lose something, in
terms of cultural plurality, political plurality,
and the link with the rest of the world. – [Voiceover] The
situation of Iraqi Christians today, is
extremely precarious. The history of
Christians in Turkey, tragically demonstrates
what could happen to them. Almost complete disappearance. In the early 20th century,
the Christian community of the Ottoman Empire,
which became Turkey, was the largest in
the Middle East. (bell ringing) The Tur Abdin is the
historical birthplace of Syriac Orthodox Christians. It’s called the Mountain
of God’s Servants. Mor Gabriel Monastery, founded
in the late fourth century by two monks, is the symbol
of one of the oldest churches of Christianity, The
Syriac Orthodox Church. At its peak, during the fifth
and sixth century, more than a thousand monks
inhabited the monastery. Islam penetrated
the Christian world in the seventh century,
through conquest. Once they had won territories
from the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs unified these regions
through language, currency, and establishing a powerful
and efficient administration. – [Voiceover] When Islam
arrived in the seventh century, it was people who were close
to them, it was other Semites. They were people who
knew the desert, camels, taking off shoes before
entering someone’s home. It is not a Muslim custom
to remove their shoes before entering a mosque,
it is an Arab custom. Somehow, Christians adapted
well to the arrival of Muslims, especially as the Muslim
Prince, the Kalif, the successor of the prophet, needed
to run a vast empire, and he lacked experience. Often, Christians
were ministers. – [Voiceover] There was
a strong friendliness, because Christians knew the
language and the mentality well. There are quite a number
of texts, dialogues between Christians and
Muslims, on problems that today, we wouldn’t
dare to tackle. – [Voiceover] But the
first Kalifs, established a special status for Christians. Dhimmitude. This status is a
submission agreement that defines Christians,
as second class citizens. – [Voiceover] The Muslim world
considered local Christians as their proteges, in the
condescending sense of the term. There was discrimination,
sometimes in their clothing, sometimes in access to certain jobs, and also,
in terms of taxes. They had to pay a tax, which was the price for that
tolerated status. – [Voiceover] With the
advent of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century,
the situation of Christians is normalized. The system of millets, which
means nation in Turkish, recognizes Christians as a
community, represented by a patriarch, but still,
with a lower status. This system remains in place, until the fall of
the Ottoman Empire. – [Voiceover] In the late
19th and early 20th century, there is a current of ideas, embodied by the
most nationalistic, which believes that there must
be balance between belonging to the Ottoman Empire, and
religious affiliation to Islam. From then on, you could
be Turkish and Muslim, but not Turkish and Christian. This idea was taken
up at the beginning of the Turkish Republic,
by Mustafa Kemal, who also formalizes this
conception of citizenship, that is reduced to religious
and denominational affiliation. – [Voiceover] This
discrimination was
sometimes violent, and when you would
discriminate against someone, a time comes when the
persecutions turn violent. – [Voiceover] In 1915,
a genocide planned and carried out by the
Young Turks movement, who were in power in
the Ottoman Empire, has one and a half
Armenian Christian victims, or 2/3 of the population,
and more than 50% of Assyrian Christians,
nearly 260,000 people. – It’s certainly true,
that one of the things that has fueled intolerance and
the persecution of Christians, has been the rise
of nationalism. That was one of the main
factors that led to the genocide of Armenians, and really, the
persecution of Christians. (dramatic piano music) – [Voiceover] A
hundred years ago, other less-known populations,
who were victims of genocide, include Assyrian populations,
Chaldeans, and Syriac, who were victims of what,
in Aramaic, is called Seyfo. Seyfo means, the
sword, in Aramaic. North of Mardin, there
is a plateau in Syria called Tur Abdin, where
part of the population was decimated, and many
churches were destroyed. Cold ethnocide, that is to
say, a cultural genocide, in addition to a
physical genocide. One in two members of the
community were tortured. – [Voiceover] Ethnic
cleansing, committed against the Assyrian Christians,
during the first World War, is now a forgotten genocide. Yet, at the time, abuses
against Christians were known to Western governments,
church leaders, politicians, and
military officers. – [Voiceover] The irony
of history is that, the Assyrian Chaldeans massacred
today in Nineveh province in Iraq, are the
descendants of the survivors of the 1915 genocide. – [Voiceover] The repeated
massacres and the fate of survivors, allow us to
understand how the population of the original birthplace
of Assyrian Christians, was drastically reduced
during the 20th century. Today, there are only a few
thousand Christians in Turkey, and their minority
status leaves them in a very precarious situation. (sheep baaing) (singing in foreign language) – [Voiceover] One of the
demands of this small community is to have a legally
protected status, that is currently denied by
the political authorities. Armenians and Orthodox Jews
have a form of legal protection, and can be considered
a community, with cultural, political,
and religious rights. But, other Christian
minorities, Syriacs, Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals,
which exist, as well, although, in a tiny
minority, have absolutely no legal rights, as
they’re considered a collection of individuals. – [Voiceover] Kafro is
an emblematic village, which was deserted by
its inhabitants, in 1994. Access to the area was
forbidden by the Turkish Army. In 2003, the ban
was finally lifted, but although
Christians are allowed to return and build
houses, they are forbidden from rebuilding their churches. – [Voiceover] The
old town was here. I was born and I grew up
in this house, opposite, I lived there until
the age of 19. At its peak, there
were about 50 families, living in this village. It’s interesting, in 100 years, this village was
emptied three times. Three times it was destroyed
and rebuilt, in 100 years. – [Voiceover] Tur Abdin
is an interesting case. It is the will of
a very few people, but even though they are few, what this is means is important. They want to move back to
Turkey, and reclaim their roots, practicing their faith,
and this is what happens. But, how many people
does it affect? A hundred? 150? Maybe so, it’s very much
a minority phenomenon. What is important is
that, firstly, they have the possibility of
resettling in their homes, or the place where
their ancestors lived. Secondly, if they
wish to, they can renovate or rebuild
the buildings. It is rather the case of
reconstruction, but they have a problem practicing their
faith in the old churches. – [Voiceover] This
church is very old. It dates from the
fifth or sixth century. As you can see, it
has been damaged. I was baptized in this church, I got married in this
church, and until I was 19, I came here every
Sunday for mass. The military has written some
very ugly things on the walls. As you can see, the
place where mass is said, has been vandalized. The ancient frescos have been
dismantled, and taken away, but the state doesn’t
do anything about it. We do not even have the
right to hammer in a nail. (birds chirping) – [Voiceover] Turkey was
once home to the largest Christian community,
in the Middle East. But, this can now
be found in Egypt. The Copts of Egypt
are one of the main Christian communities,
in the Middle East. They date back to
the first century, nowadays, their exact
number is a taboo, in Egyptian society. They are estimated to make
up between six and 15%, of a population of
over 90 million. – [Voiceover] Basically,
the Copts are Egyptians, since the word, Coptic, Kupt
in Arabic, is a kind of, abbreviation, of the Greek
word, Egiptus, meaning Egyptian. The Copts are the descendants
of generations of Egyptians, in the first, second, third
centuries, who embraced Christianity, and
left the religion of their ancestors,
the pharaohs. Most Muslims in Egypt,
are actually Copts, who, over time, have
converted to Islam. – [Voiceover] After enduring
Ottoman and British rule, Egypt became
independent in 1922. Sultan Fuad I, became the
first king of the new state. His son, Farouk,
succeeded him in 1936. But, in 1952, the Free
Officers Movement, headed by Colonel
Gamal Abdel Nasser, overthrew the monarchy, and
established the Republic. This was the era of Pan-Arabism, an ideology, which aims
to unify the Arab people. A hope for the Muslim world, in its aspirations to modernity. (crowd applauding) – [Voiceover] In the first
half of the 20th century, the Middle East was marked
by the Pan-Arabist ideal. They were going to
be Arab societies constructed, that were modern. Arabism had been betrayed
and was a failure, probably because the West had
not supported it sufficiently. Arabism was, alas,
succeeded by Islamism. Obviously, in that context, Christians no
longer feel welcome. They are excluded, by a
major part of society. – [Voiceover] The following
regimes, from Nasser to Mubarak, call themselves Republicans,
but in reality, are trying to provide security to
the Muslim majority. In the 90s, armed Islamist
groups destabilized the state, and attacked
the Christians. Caught in the crossfire,
Copts find themselves alone, ignored by the
international community, which is more anxious to
preserve the stability of Hosni Mubarak’s government. During the New
Year mass of 2011, the Copts are the
target of a particularly heinous attack, in the
Alexandria Cathedral. An escalation in violence,
causes several deaths, and the perpetrators
are never identified. – [Voiceover] The relationship
between the population and the regime, deteriorated,
which could be seen in the rise of
protest movements, including strikes
and demonstrations. Within the church,
there was a parallel movement, of course,
to a minor extent. But, a number of elite secular
Copts increasingly challenged this monopolization of
speech and Coptic identity, by the church and the
hierarchy, challenging both the authoritarianism of
the Pope, and the majority of Bishops, as well as
their own compromise, with the authoritarian regime. – [Voiceover] January 25, 2011, revolution broke out in
Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Thousands of young Christians
and Muslims defy the authority of President Mubarak,
and unite in the hope of a new citizenship, waving, side by side,
crosses and Qurans. In 2012, the
election saw a better organized Muslim
Brotherhood gain power. The new president, Mohamed
Morsi, passes a constitution that paves the way for a
stricter Islam, confiscating secular ideals, and
citizens of the revolution. In June 2013, he was
overthrown by the military. The reply comes quickly. All over Egypt, 60
churches are ransacked by supporters of the
absent president. The beautiful dream of Tahrir
Square goes up in smoke. (explosion) – [Voiceover] The Islamists
wanted to make the Copts pay, considering them to be some
of the primary instigators of the movement that brought
about Morsi’s fall from power. – [Voiceover] Like most
Christians in the Middle East, the Copts are a minority
in their own country, and are forced to seek the
protection of those in power. Coptic Pope Tawadros II and
the bishops unconditionally support the new president,
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. For the first time, in
the country’s history, an Egyptian President
greets the Coptic community, during Christmas mass. (laughs) – [Voiceover] We
don’t have to ask, you are Egyptian,
but of what religion. We’re all going to
love each other, and show that to the world. We are Egyptians. – [Voiceover] It is
indisputable that for much of the Christian community,
the advent of el-Sisi marshal, represented a kind
of liberation. But, there is a kind of
similitude, this status of second class citizen,
that is growing, non-explicitly, day to day. Christians know very well,
that in the work place, promotions will be less easily accessible to them,
than to Muslims. Moreover, the successive
constitutions of
Egypt, since 1952, forbid a Christian from becoming
president of the Republic, or prime minister, or attaining a position of high
responsibility. (native folk music) – [Voiceover] In the heart
of Egypt, near Luxor, between the Nile
and the dessert, we find the symbol of
the Coptic resistance. The monastery of dear
el-Mallakh Machal. – [Voiceover] As
Christians of Egypt, we lived much darker hours
in previous centuries. Certainly today, martyrs are
killed, people are attacked, churches are burned, but
Christians are still there. – [Voiceover] At the
head of a diocese of 620,000 inhabitants, of
whom 25,000 are Christians, Bishop Biman, is leading the
fight for the Coptic revival. This charismatic prelate,
a former architect, turned the monastery
into a teaching center, that can accommodate
several thousand faithful. – [Voiceover] We aspire to be a center of influence
in all areas. In addition to
agricultural activities, we have carpentry
workshops, trade, iron work, farms, and all
kinds of activities. We offer work to whoever
deserves and who is competent, without any religious
discrimination. – [Voiceover] Near the
monastery on the Nile, in the town of
Naqada, Bishop Biman has begun construction
of a new church. Christians throughout the
region are encouraged to come to worship, including the
children, who, every Friday, have a two hour mass,
dedicated to them. (singing in foreign language) – [Voiceover] One cannot
deny that there is a Coptic revival, which began
a number of decades ago. The monasteries are full
of monks, church are full, but at the same time,
you can actually see a certain drop in the
Christian mentality. Te danger is that
Christians become a small island,
within the population. – [Voiceover] The spirit
of conquest, embodied by Bishop Biman, can be
considered, paradoxically, as the reflection
of a community that is likely to be
edged out of history. One country is an exception
in the Middle East. Lebanon, the only Arab country
where Christians are not in the minority, and
they fully participate in political life. Mainly Maronites, they
represent 43% of the population, alongside other religions,
Shiite Muslims, 27%, Sunni Muslims, 23%, Druze,
4%, and Alawites, 3%. After World War I,
the Ottoman Empire, an ally of the defeated
Germany, is dismantled. (dramatic music) The Middle East is redivided by the victors, into
the current states. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan,
Iraq, and later, Israel. – France and Britain
divided the Middle East between them, a
hundred years ago. It’s certainly the case
that that division formed the basis for today’s
political geography. Ran rough short over
local differences, over ethnic differences,
religious differences, and paid no attention to them. The Sykes-Picot Movement
was very much designed to resolve tensions, between
the two allies, rather than to accommodate local
differences, in the Middle East. – [Voiceover] In April, 1920,
France is given a mandate over Syria and Lebanon, which, at the time, is one large area. Its desire to curb the
nationalist aspirations, by dividing the
territory, provokes differing reactions
among Christians. – What the French did, was
to divide Lebanon from Syria, to try to create a
Christian enclave, which would be effectively
a baza-re-yair. Something that they
could hang on to, and that would be a
majority Christian area, where they felt more secure. Then, in Syria, they
further divided it. They divided it between
the Sunni, the Alawites, and the Druze, to create
little states, statelets. France did definitely embark
on a policy of divide and rule. – [Voiceover] Unlike their
Maronite brothers in Lebanon, the Syrian Christians aspire
to create a great Arab nation. At the beginning of
the French mandate, the Syrian people revolt. If Syrian Christians
do not participate in this military action,
they will be at the forefront of political resistance
to the French, who have colonial
designs on the region. This spirit of resistance,
embodied by the Christians, purveyed civil society,
and unites them with the Sunni Muslims, who are in the majority in the country. – [Voiceover] During the
period of the mandate, the Sunni Muslim
leader of Damascus, was close to the
mandate authorities. The Christian leader was
close to the resistance. While, in the great mosque
of Damascus, Umayyad, the most coveted place
by the Muslim faithful, the leaders claimed that
their imam was the Christian bishop, and not the Sunni
sheik, by nationalism. – [Voiceover] What it
fails to build in Syria, France will create in Lebanon. A state where Christians
are in the majority, and where they have
strong political power. – [Voiceover] “France
governed Lebanon, “under the mandate
it has been given, “just after San Remo,
until World War II. “This is when Lebanon’s
independence was
decided,” she says. “The President of
the Republic, who was “a Christian Maronite,
confirmed a verbal agreement, “which remained verbal, with the “Sunni Prime
Minister at the time. “This agreement, which is
still called the Pact of 1943, “was in fact, the foundation
of the development “of modern Lebanon,” she says. – [Voiceover] This
verbal Pact of 1943, divided political power,
between different faiths. It stipulates that the
President of the Republic and the Chief of Staff, always
be a Maronite Christian, The Prime Minister, a Sunni
Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament, a Shiia Muslim. – [Voiceover] We built
a kind of laboratory of institutionalized dialogue
with the Christian presence, that maybe marks the
identity of Lebanon. Lebanon is the key
to the Middle East. – [Voiceover] In 1975, the
presence of Palestinian combatants, destabilizes
Lebanon, and triggers a terrible civil war,
that lasts 15 years, and causes around
200,000 deaths. A war which pits everybody
against each other, and also, sees bloody
fighting, between Christians. – [Voiceover] “In 1990, the
guns fell silent after 15 years, “leaving a destroyed capital,
and a country in ruins. “The Christians entered a
deep depression,” she says. “Why? “Because they had the feeling
that the political agreements “that ended the war,
the Taif Agreement, “where all of the Lebanese
Parliament had been summoned “to meet in Arabia, to
create a new constitution. “Lebanese Christians felt
that they had not only lost “the war, but they had also
lost Lebanon,” she says. “This feeling of a loss
of power, even today, “the Lebanese
Christians do not know “how to manage
their own destiny. “This is what made them an
historic exception,” she says. “They are the only non-Muslim
community, which had managed, “through history, to
control its own destiny, “by sharing it with
Muslims,” she says. (bells ringing) “Today, the two major Muslim
communities, Sunni and Shiite, “were able to take control
of running the country. “Sunnis have Saudi Arabia,
as their reference, “Shiite have Iran and the
Christians,” she says. “The Christians of Lebanon,
quite intelligently, “split themselves into two. “The question that
everyone asks, is this. “Have they done it in
a concerted way or not? “Probably not,” she says. “While some of the
Christians allied themselves “with the Sunnis, and
therefore, with Saudi Arabia, “and the rest of the Lebanese
Christians allied themselves “to Shiite, and therefore, Iran. “Somehow, this division
of Christians, into
two, saved them, “by preventing
further Anti-Christian “discourse in
Lebanon,” she says. (foreign language) – [Voiceover] “This is to
show that everybody that “we are sure the Christians
will remain in the Middle East, “and live out their faith. “It is a testimony,” she says. – [Voiceover] It’s
a testimony that is very important
for the entire world. – [Voiceover] “We in Lebanon,
the Christians of Lebanon, “Syria, and even the entire
Middle East, will remain true “messengers of God, of
Jesus, in the world. “Even when we emigrate,
we are messengers, “and we will continue
to play that role, “all over the world,” she says. – [Voiceover]
Christians that are not threatened are not Christians. Today, it’s Daesh, several
hundreds of years ago, it was the Ottomans,
and it goes on. – [Voiceover] A new element
of disaster for Christians in the Middle East
is the Civil War, between Muslims, between
Sunnis, and Shiites. For reasons that
are quite complex, but come down to a
quite simple one. Basically, Shiites are the
best supporters of Christians, because they too, are a
minority within Islam, and so, find it easier to support
fellow minorities. But, this is the curse of
Christians in the Middle East, because the West has chosen to
follow a pro-Sunni politics, and to accompany Saudi
Arabia, the UEA, and Turkey. This is a total paradox,
because it is these states that are responsible for the
rise of Islamism and Daesh, either directly or indirectly. (helicopter whirring) – [Voiceover] In Syria,
Christians are caught in a war that has been raging
for five years. The forces on the ground
testify, that the conflict now pits Sunni, Saudi
Arabia, against Shiite, Iran. On the one hand, the Syrian
Army of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah
and Iranian troops, on the other, Islamist brigades, and what remains of
the free Syrian Army. Daesh occupying part
of the territory, has further complicated the
issue, by attacking, in turn, the government, and
moderate opposition. – [Voiceover] The events
unfolding in the Middle East clearly show that there is a
plan, which is playing out. What is happening in Syria
illustrates it very well. The main consequence
will be, that Syria will be emptied
of its Christians. – [Voiceover] The Syrian
Christians represent 1%0% of a population, consisting
of 78% Sunni Muslims, and 10% Alawites. – [Voiceover] Part of the
central core of power, consists of the
Alawite community. Their relationship, with the Christians of Syria,
is very important. I would not say it is an
alliance, but more a partnership of minorities, in a country that is predominately Sunni Muslim. So, there was always
this certain will,
from those in power, by Bashar Assad, and
his father, at the time of Hafez Assad, to
protect the Christians. That’s undeniable. Conversely, Christians
in their diversity, across all communities
of different rights, feel or felt protected
by the government. – [Voiceover] Hafez
Assad, from the Alawite minority,
took power in 1970. He established an authoritarian
regime that allowed the secret service to infiltrate
Syrian society, as a whole, and even to construct religious
hierarchies for Muslims and Christians, which
controlled the appointment of imams and bishops. – [Voiceover] The
exploitation of religion for political ends,
began with the arrival of Hafez Assad,
to power in 1970. The Assad family
understood that religion had to be used and exploited. The whole of society was
structured to prevent the development of the concept
of citizenship, because if a society is based around
the theme of citizenship, it can be dangerous, and risks rallying together,
and claiming rights. The events that began
in 2011, proved this. There were many young Christians
who were demonstrating, at the beginning of the
Syrian revolution, in 2011. These were denounced, even by their bishops, to
the authorities. (camera shutters clicking) – [Voiceover] In the
footsteps of his father, Bashar al-Assad
exploits communities. He uses the civil war and the
Islamist threat, to push men of the church, to show their
support for the regime. – [Voiceover] Religious
systems and Christian religious authorities, have joined
forces with the government, because they believe
that if Muslim extremists take power, they
will be exterminated. – [Voiceover] Before the
war, there were 1,800,000 Christians, for 23
million individuals. They are now only a
few hundred thousand. Six million Syrians, of all
faiths, have left the country, including nearly 1
million Christians. – [Voiceover] From that point,
what we must understand, is that Christians are leaving
because, after 14 or 15 centuries of resistance,
for the first time, they feel they can
no longer resist. Christians only have one option
left, and that is to leave. They go to a West that, often,
they think of as Christian. They discover it is
completely secularized. They can survive, physically,
there, but not spiritually, as they no longer have
the necessary environment to transmit their identity. Culturally, we’re
really facing disaster. We are truly facing
an event that seems to prefigure what will
happen from now on, but their identities will
only be deadly or folkloric. What Christians in the Middle
East signaled in history, was this ability to mediate
between the two religions, since they accompanied the birth of Christianity, and
the birth of Islam. They have always been
in between the two. But, our world does not want
mediation, or in between, and that’s what the Christians
of the Middle East show us. That’s why their drama
is not a special one, it is a universal drama, which
gives us a tragic picture of tomorrow’s world,
and shows us that our indifference, is
even more shameful. – Now, those societies
in the Middle East were also sensitive
ecological systems, in which, Christians, and
Jews, and Muslims, and Yazidis, need each other, if
they are to flourish. If we allow one species of
faith to become extinct, then everything is impoverished. When they die, we die. (crowd chatter) (singing in foreign language)

Jean Kelley

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