Will Christians disappear from Lebanon?

The capture of Aleppo and the attack on Cairo's cathedral highlight the desperate situation of Christians in the Middle East. The West's plan to replace dictatorships with democracies did not work out.

The terrorist militia Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the Coptic St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo. An IS suicide bomber killed and injured 80 "crusaders", according to a letter of confession. At least 25 people were killed and 49 injured in the bomb attack near the official residence of the Coptic Pope on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Christian quarter in western Aleppo was again hit by rockets on Tuesday. Among other things, a rocket had hit the Jesuit Convention, reports the Catholic priest of Aleppo, the Franciscan Ibrahim Al-Sabagh. According to his information, around 500 rebel fighters have holed up in an area of ‚Äč‚Äčaround one square kilometer. The Syrian army, on the other hand, stopped shelling.

Desperate situation for Christians in the Middle East

Aleppo and Cairo: two highlights this week on the desperate situation of Christians in the Middle East. The so-called Arab Spring 2011 was accompanied by the illusion in the West that the elimination of decades-old dictatorships would almost automatically create democratic structures. So it couldn't be bad to support militias in the uprising against Syria's ruler, Bashar al-Assad.

Warnings from Syrian church leaders were brushed aside. In doing so, it was not an alleged part of maintaining power that drove them - but rather worries about the even greater evil. In Egypt, too, the Coptic church leaders warned their believers not to expose themselves too politically. This, too, was not exactly interpreted as confessing courage in the West.

Destabilization, disorder and terror instead of democratization. The lesson of misjudgment tastes bitter and the lawsuit against the onslaught of refugees in Europe is great. Flashback: The "Arab Spring" became a conflagration from Tunisia.

Longstanding despots and regimes fell like dominoes: Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

Christians crushed between the fronts

The low-minded Christians in the region did not really gain freedom. On the contrary: they and other minorities lost their protective power against radical Islam along with the dictators. In the successor wars, the Islamists grew stronger; Christians are being crushed between the fronts in many places.

In Syria, the destructive war between the Assad government, IS militias and other rebel groups has been going on for years. Human rights crimes are ascribed to all warring parties. Violence and terror drive hundreds of thousands of Christians to leave the country.

Of the 150,000 Christians who lived in Aleppo before the war, only around 30,000 are left, as the Franciscan Firas Lutfi reports. Of the around 21 million Syrians before the war, 9 million are now considered refugees or internally displaced persons. 6 to 10 percent of Syrians were once Christians of various denominations. Now the number of up to 700,000 Christian refugees is in the room.

It is, historically, a fourth massive bloodletting for Christianity that spread from Jerusalem to Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and North Africa long before it came to Europe. The fact that there is a confusing diversity of Christian denominations in the Middle East in particular is due to the conflicting processes of finding one's own doctrines and beliefs, as it did later in Islam.

In the course of the ecumenical councils of late antiquity, four church families each with their own liturgy emerged: the so-called churches of the east; the early Orthodox churches of the Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians, and Armenians; the later Greek and Georgian Orthodoxy; and the various Catholic churches associated with Rome, including the Maronites in Lebanon, the Chaldeans in Iraq, the Melkites or the "Latins", as the Roman Catholics in the Holy Land are called.

Christianity suffered its first historical setback with the Islamic expansion of the 7th century. All of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula were permanently lost to Christianity.

The fall of the "Holy Land" to the Muslims heralded the age of the Crusades in the 11th century. Christian Byzantium, seat of the Eastern Roman emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople, fell in 1453. The Ottomans soon ruled as far as Bosnia.

Minority - despite a numerical majority

Over all these centuries, however, Christians in many regions remained a notable minority, in some cases even the numerical majority. At the beginning of the 20th century, they made up 30 or more percent of the population in Istanbul, Iraq or Syria.

However, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire brought with it a pogrom mood among Islamic neo-nationalists. This "third wave" in the course of the First World War led to the genocide of the Armenians and the Aramaeans in what is now Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands, possibly over a million, Christians were killed. With the Greek-Turkish population exchange agreed in 1923, Asia Minor also lost around 1.5 million Orthodox Christians, some of whose ancestors had lived there since ancient times.

In the 21st century, Syria, Iraq and Turkey, which were once Christian, sometimes only have tiny minorities left. And they are under the greatest pressure. The West is partly to blame for this.