Debate: Should Christians abandon the Middle East?

A Lebanese woman lights a candle at a vigil in Beirut following the massacre in Baghdad on Sunday (Photo: PA)

The massacre of dozens of worshippers in Baghdad on Sunday has led to renewed despair among Iraq’s Christians. Bishop Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary of Babylonia of the Chaldeans, said they were “terrified”. “They don’t understand why they should suffer such cruel evil,” he said. He has urged his flock to be strong in faith and ready to offer the “extreme witness” of death. He added: “You cannot expect everyone to have a heroic faith.”

Surely it is better for Christians in Iraq and other, threatening parts of the Middle East to leave, build new lives in Europe, Britain or the US, in total safety, rather than risk being martyred. Yes, they may have lived there for 1,800 years, but that is no reason to expect them to offer the “extreme witness” of death.

On the other hand, Christians in the Middle East are a moderating force, and act as bridge-builders between East and West. They can help rebuild Iraq. Of course they can flee; but that’s what the Islamists want. Christians and Muslims must learn to live together at some point.

So, should Christians abandon the Middle East? Or should they stay, with extra support from the west?