In America, we can count our many blessings — among them “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We can enjoy peace in our homeland at least insofar as outside forces are concerned. But in some parts of the world, the story is starkly different for Christians on this Christmas Eve.
In Bethlehem where Christ was born, there is peace but Arab Christians now “are a dwindling minority,” reports the Telegraph of London. Many are looking for a new life far from Bethlehem, in part because there are few jobs there. “And we are under pressure from both Jews and Muslims, both of whom are becoming more religious,” says Jack Glacaman, who owns a souvenir shop and traces his Bethlehem ancestors back nearly 400 years to an Italian stonemason who arrived there to work on Franciscan churches.
On Sunday, the situation apparently was relatively calm elsewhere in Palestine after last month’s offensive by Israel seeking to end rocket attacks by Palestinians. The action left about 170 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, and six Israelis including two soldiers. Now there is another uneasy peace until the next outbreak of violence in that never-ending conflict in the very place where “peace on earth” was proclaimed more than 2,000 years ago.
In the troubled land of Egypt, Coptic Christians — victims of violence and discrimination for years — now face a new danger. It’s the new state constitution that will clear the way for imposition of Sharia law. “Once the constitution begins to take effect, we will witness a new era of additional repression in Egypt,” U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), co-chairman of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, wrote in the Washington Times.
In Afghanistan, there is no peace in sight although there have been some talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban — which still insists it is the legitimate government of that country. It is extremely difficult to believe that true peace, dependent upon the freedom of all people including Christians and other non-Muslims, will ever prevail in that country after U.S. troops pull out.
In Iraq, Christians have long faced persecution. Now thousands of them that fled to Syria before that country’s new civil war are heading back to Iraq because of sectarian persecution in Syria. Their number in Iraq continues to decline. They have been driven from their homes by attacks and intimidation, as the New York Times has reported.
“Their quiet exodus to Turkey, Jordan, Europe and the United States is the latest chapter of a seemingly inexorable decline that many religious leaders say tolls the twilight of Christianity in a land where city skylines have long been marked by both minarets and church steeples,” the Times said. “Recent assessments say that Iraq’s Christian population has now fallen by more than half since the 2003 American invasion.”
Christmas Eve 2012. Hope for peace on earth.