Last year the Knights of Columbus sent Secretary of State John Kerry a 278-page report portraying in detail what the title called “Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East (.pdf here).”
The media should be paying continual attention to this minority’s disastrous decline in its historic heartland under pressure from Muslim extremists and chaos otherwise.
The largest targeted group is the Copts, the original ethnic Egyptians with a heritage that dates to Christ’s apostles, making up perhaps 10 percent of the national population. In Syria, where “Christians” were first given that name, believers constituted a solid and generally respected 12 percent of the population before the ruinous civil war erupted. Numbers have plummeted there and in Iraq, where Christians constituted 7 percent until recent times. Conditions are also harsh in neighboring countries.
Western media coverage of the Christians’ plight should acknowledge that extremists also visit death and devastation upon legions of their fellow Muslims, including groups regarded as heterodox. Oddly, Syria has been ruled largely by members of one such off-brand minority, the Assad clan’s Alawites.
Given the complexity of world religions, even a seasoned reporter can miss an important group. And The Religion Guy confesses he was essentially unaware of one, the Alevis, until they were treated July 23 in a comprehensive New York Times report by Turkey correspondent Patrick Kingsley. Foreign Affairs magazine says this religio-ethnic group claims up to one-fifth of Turkey’s 80 million citizens.
Syria’s Alawites and the Alevis are not to be confused, though both are offshoots of Shi’a Islam that developed into new, heterodox forms of Islam if not new religions altogether, drawing elements from non-Muslim faiths.