Christians and Other Religious Minorities in the Middle East

Source: The Century Foundation

Author(s): Elizabeth Monier

Original Link:

Thanassis Cambanis: You’ve said that Christians in the Middle East represent different denominational, ethnic, and linguistic identities. Is it unproductive to talk about Middle Eastern Christians as a homogenous group or to assume a united perspective on questions of national belonging and citizenship? How should we think and talk about Christians in the Middle East?

Elizabeth Monier: In my research on these kinds of questions I keep coming back to the importance of raising awareness of the diversity between and within different communities and to acknowledge this in the public sphere, as well as the opportunity that the idea of citizenship represents for integrating this diversity into the broader national consciousness. Starting from the point of religion is counterproductive for the purposes of this project, which is trying to move away from religion as an identity, rather than as a belief. By talking about a “Christian perspective,” we a priori assume that political, social, and cultural perspectives are based on religious identity. That already starts to undermine what we’re hoping to achieve in terms of inclusive citizenship. Instead, we need to start with the idea of citizenship and talk about citizens, and find a unity of purpose in that. When we’re talking about the problems that Christians are facing, we should also acknowledge that it’s not just Christians who are facing these issues. It’s really all citizens in a given state. It’s the lack of democracy and the lack of a culture of citizenship that affects everyone—regardless of religious identity. It’s acknowledging that diversity exists among religious denominations and that society is made up of different religious, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic identities. All citizens are facing these challenges, and therefore they need to be addressed as a universal problem, rather than as one exclusively faced by Christians or a particular religious denomination.

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