The Western world and Russia are facing difficult decisions.
The problem of preserving Christianity in the Middle East began to occupy a firm place in the agenda of the heads of churches, states, politicians and experts. In late November 2016 Patriarch Cyril in an exclusive interview with RT on this occasion said the following: "I had many times to raise my voice on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church in defense of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Because of all the minorities, the Christians suffered the most. The figures are appalling: one and a half million Christians in Iraq - now there are no more than 150 thousand. Half a million Christians in Syria do not know where to disappeared. Either they were killed, or they emigrated.
But the Middle East is the cradle of Christianity, the cradle of Christian culture. Therefore, the destruction of Christians, the expulsion of Christians from this region is not only a crime against faith, against human rights and freedoms, but also as a civilizational disaster, because with the disappearance of the Christian population, everything will change very much in these states. If the rulers in these states, including the secular rulers, were forced to take into account the presence of Christians and build their domestic policies in such a way as to comply with the balance sheets, now there are no balances to observe. And it is not known what can happen at all with the remnants of the Christian population in these countries. Therefore, our meeting with the pope had a central concern about the situation in the Middle East. And this is a sincere concern, stemming from our shared conviction that we need to take decisive steps and simply save Christians and, of course, not only Christians. It is important that bloodletting stops altogether. I want this to be very clear. It is about all suffering. There is no question of the disappearance of Islam in these countries, but the question is about the destruction of Christians. "
And further: "It is absolutely clear that if the countries that take part in military operations on the territory of Syria and Iraq are aware of the need to eradicate terrorism, if this is the only goal that is declared and which really drives these states, if there are no other undeclared goals, then it is very simple to join forces. In the end, what is IGIL (an organization whose activities are banned in the Russian Federation)? With fascism, which enslaved most of Europe, we coped with joint efforts. Therefore, it was easy enough to solve the problem of IGIL (an organization whose activities are banned in the Russian Federation), at the same time the refugee problem and all the subsequent tragic events that have been and still are stemming from this conflict in Iraq and Syria. This does not happen. Therefore, we can only pray and, of course, work, so that all countries understand the need for concerted action. If we say that one coalition takes one position, Russia takes a different position - the time has come when there should not be these different approaches, we need to negotiate. "
Anxiety about the fate of Middle Eastern Christianity is shared by the pope Francis Francis: "Today we are horrified to see how our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and in other regions of the world are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. They are subjected to discrimination, violence, they are killed. In this "Third World War in installments", humanity is experiencing a kind of genocide, which must be stopped. " Konstantin Dolgov, representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, spoke about the situation with Christians in a number of countries in the Middle East, which remains difficult. Speaking at a roundtable on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East region, he said: "The displacement and expulsion of Christians in the Middle East has become a systemic problem. This is a powerful challenge to the security and stability of this region. The region is the cradle of three world religions; depriving its elements of one of these religions would cause irreparable damage to the entire regional structure, would have consequences far beyond the region, which, in fact, is already happening. "
So several problems are singled out at once: the irreversibility or reversibility of the processes of the return of Christians to the Middle East; who will and will protect Christians in this region and whether their situation will change after the victory over IGIL (an organization whose activities are banned in the Russian Federation); What should be prepared if the events in the Middle East develop according to the current scenario? Immediately indicate some positions. The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity. It was here that it was born, and then spread all over the world. For many centuries, during numerous conquests, the number of Christians in the region has been decreasing. Some experts believe that the very preservation of the Churches so far in the Middle East "can be considered to some extent a phenomenon." According to the existing, however, outdated statistics, Christians today are no more than 8% of the population of the region. In the last century they were 20%.
The point of the report of the current tragic events for Christianity is 2011 year, when the so-called "Arab Spring" began, which led to the appearance in 2014 of IGIL (an organization whose activities are banned in the Russian Federation). After this, a spiral of violence against Christians began. Their exodus from the region increased, and some churches were on the verge of extinction. In the Middle East, Islamic identity begins to dominate, along with the growth of nationalistic sentiments, which in turn is fraught with certain relapses that already manifest themselves in the Sunni-Shiite confrontation. According to the German edition of Die Welt, the Middle East enters the fourth phase of its development, if the first three consider the Arab conquests of the 7th century, the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453 and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in 1918-23.
The last of the three phases led to a sharp change in the geopolitical situation in the region, although Eastern Christians were able to survive. Despite the fact, as Die Welt emphasizes, that "the third phase on the eve and during the First World War led to the genocide of Armenians and Aramians in the territory of today's Turkey, Syria and Iraq," when more than a million Christians were killed. During the Greek-Turkish exchange of population in accordance with the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923, Asia Minor and Pontus lost another 1,5 million Orthodox, whose ancestors had lived there since ancient times. That is why there is every reason to suppose that the current fourth phase will inevitably lead eventually to the next geopolitical transformation of the Middle East. But will this time preserve Eastern Christianity? The question is open.
While we can state the following: the demographic situation is dramatically changing in the region. There is a geopolitical space in which ethnic Christian minorities either disappear altogether or small islands remain, but without the ability to act as mediators between civilizations. The problem is that the new Islamic space, deprived of Christians, will itself plunge into a swamp of extremism that can or will gravitate toward external expansion. At one time, Muslim religious tolerance was fantastic. Now the Salafis tear off the heads of the Gentiles. The next question is: where will the first line in the opposition be geographically and how will this factor affect the policies of the United States, Europe and Russia, which designated its military presence in Syria?
In any case, the current course of events, and the Middle East does not justify the predictions of Western ideologists who, on the one hand, foresaw the geopolitical transformation of the region. And on the other, they were confident that "the involvement of the Islamic world in the modernization processes will take place naturally". True, they also warned that any attempts to impose their ideas, their spiritual domination, "suppress" another civilization can only lead to an increase in xenophobia, the formation in the public consciousness of representatives of a different image of the "alien", even the image of "the enemy ". What to do next and how to be in such a situation in Moscow?
It is believed that Russia, due to its geographical position, features of historical development, can play an important role in the development of mutual understanding between European and Muslim civilizations. At the same time, there are calls for her to protect the Eastern Christians. But how can one achieve this in practice, specifically, if one takes the really sounding pacifying speeches or concerns about the matter? Return to some elements of the foreign policy of the XIX century, when Russia acted as the patron of Christians in the Middle East, by the way, along with other European states that still recognized their Christian "core"? And how to reconcile this with the real processes of "redrawing" the region's regional landscape, changes in the geopolitical situation? Everything is in the dynamics and the state of the inter-confessional situation in the Middle East depends to a large extent on future and, apparently, inevitable important decisions. The main thing is that Christians are not once again a bargaining chip in the game.