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... But There’s a Slim Hope in History


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NY Times:

November 19, 2011

Fear is, in fact, a sentiment voiced often these days by Arab Christians, a sad refrain for an ancient community that was so long a force in politics and culture in the Arab world. These days, a community that still numbers in the millions — with the largest populations in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories — finds itself little more than a spectator to events reshaping a place it once helped create, and sometimes a victim of the violence that those events have unleashed. In all the narratives that the Arab revolts represent — dignity, democracy, rights and social justice — many Christians hew to a far bleaker version of events: that their time may be running out.

“I’m not a fanatic Christian,” a friend told me after the baptism. “I don’t go to church. I respect all religions. But from what I see now, in 30 years, there will be no Christians left here.”


It was the same question Bustani grappled with 150 years ago. How do a people who share a land, customs, history and a language find a common end? The task may be impossible, and societies may simply have changed too much to imagine reconciling faith and secularism. There are too few voices within majorities offering such a vision and too few leaders among minorities to articulate it. But all those years ago, Bustani had managed to imagine something different, until the very day that he died, with a pen still in his hand. In the end, his idea was as simple as it was elegant: citizenship.
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