September 12, 2012. (Romereports.com) Benedict XVI's trip to Lebanon will be the second papal visit to the Middle East.
But this visit in particular, will have a completely different dynamic, since it follows the Arab Spring and its political instability. “The Middle East has within it different realities. One of the most complicated issues is the situation of Christians. They're leaving in massive numbers from the Middle East because they don't feel safe," says
Marta Petrosillo, from Aid to the Church in Need.
"A key case is that of Iraq, where the Iraqi Christian community went from 1.4 million to 300,000 faithful, especially after the start of the war,”
According Marta Petrosillo, discrimination against Christians in the Middle East range from the workplace to physical attacks. Often times, Christians are treated as second class citizens. MARTA PETROSILLO
Aid to the Church in Need“There is a widespread understanding among citizens of the region's division. On one side there is the community of Muslims. Secondly there are those who fall under the 'protected' category. They include Christians and Jews, since the Koran describes them as 'believers of the Book.' This means that Christians are second-class citizens, even though many constitutions call for the protection of this Christian minority, but then when it comes to daily life, it's not always the case.”
The Middle East is home to about 20 million Christians, which is about 5.6 percent of the population.
But recent tensions have increased their exodus to other countries. Nevertheless Lebanon and Egypt remain the countries with most Middle Eastern Christians.
The recent increase in violence in Syria has further complicated the situation of Christians living there.MARTA PETROSILLO
Aid to the Church in Need“Before the fighting began in March 2011, Syria and Lebanon were among the countries where Christian communities could feel safe, because they were supervised. The Assad regime represented a minority, so a greater freedom was guaranteed to that Christian minority.”
But it's here that much of the confusion comes from. Because the Assad regime protected Christians, many see that minority as sympathizers of the regime. Since the conflict erupted last March an estimated 20,000 people of all creeds have died.
The tensions have increased on the border with Lebanon as many people try to flee and escape the violent conflict. MARTA PETROSILLO
Aid to the Church in Need“Hopefully the Pope's visit can calm these tensions. Surely the political forces are working to resolve the problems as soon as possible. I hope the Pope's visit can help, just as it did when he visited the Holy Land back in 2009.”
During that trip, the Pope will also deliver the conclusions of the Synod of Middle East, where again, the main focus will be a message of peace and co-existence.