The special synod for the Middle East at the Vatican is shedding light on a segment of the Christian world in dramatic movement, in several directions and with an uncertain future.
The exodus of Christians from those lands is an important part of this movement. But it is not a new phenomenon. During the first half of the twentieth century, the extermination and expulsion from Turkey of the Armenians, and then the Greeks, were of colossal proportions.
Today the exodus continues from several places, and in different degrees. The fact is that in comparison with the twelve million faithful of the ancient Eastern Churches who today live between Egypt and Iran, there are now about seven million living elsewhere.
For many decades there have been more Armenians in the diaspora than in their native land. The Maronite Lebanese have dioceses for their emigrants in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia. The Syriac Orthodox have an eparchy in Sweden.
The Iraqis have created a "Chaldean Town" in the city of Detroit. Most of the Christian emigrants from Bethlehem are going to Chile.
At the same time, however, an inverse movement is also underway in the Middle East. On the Arabian Peninsula alone – according to statements at the synod from the two apostolic vicars of the region, Paul Hinder and Camillo Ballin – three million Catholics have already come from abroad seeking jobs, most of them from the Philippines and India.
The Arab countries of the Gulf "have a great need for manual labor," explained the Syro-Malabar Indian bishop Bosco Puthur, from whose region 430,000 people have departed. But what awaits these emigrants is very bitter, if measured according to religious and civil liberties.
FULL STORY Christians in the Middle East. Crushed between Islam and Israel (Espressonline)