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Forgotten Christians of the East
by Theodore G. Karakostas
Orthodox Christian News Service, September 16, 2001


The Attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington are a reminder of the existence of evil in the world. It is very clear that Islamic extremism has made its way to America and Europe. In 1995, there were a series of bombings in France related to the civil war in Algeria between the military government and Fundamentalists.

Yet, for the past 1,400 years Eastern Christians have lived with, endured, and coped under Sharia (Islamic law). The first Islamic conquests took place during the last decade of the rule of Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (610-641). Syria, Egypt, and Palestine were lost to Christianity. Christian leaders such as Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem made deals with Caliph Omar for the protection of his flock and of Christendom's Holy places.

Despite Islam's claim of tolerance, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, and other Eastern Christians found themselves under terrible conditions. While not immediately forced to convert, Christians were forced to submit and to accept their new rulers as their masters. Economic pressures and discrimination contributed to the eventual conversion of millions of Christians to Islam.

The losses of Eastern Christianity continued following the invasions of Byzantium that were begun by the Seljuk Turks in August 1071. Steadily, Greek Christians were converted to Islam and adopted Turkish and Arabic as their languages. In 1453, Sultan Mehmed II achieved one of Islam's most notorious conquests when he conquered Constantinople and defeated the Christian Empire's last Emperor Constantine Paleologos.

Europe eventually made peace with the Sultan at the expense of Christian Greeks, Serbs, Rumanians, Bulgarians, Albanians, and Armenians. Christian boys were kidnapped and taken to the Janissaries for conversion to Islam and political indoctrination. Women were taken into harems, Churches were converted into Mosques and Christians were forced to acknowledge the superiority of their rulers. "Zakat" a special tax was imposed on Christians. Disputes between Christians and Muslims were heard in Islamic Courts.

At the dawn of the twentieth Century, there were still millions of Christians in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. In 1915, the Young Turks began a process of slaughtering one and a half million Armenian Christians. Furthermore, the Greeks of Pontus and Asia Minor were likewise targeted for extermination.

In 1919, the Greek Army liberated the ancient city of Smyrna. Smyrna is one of the seven Churches that St. John wrote to in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. The Greek and Armenian Christians who sought their right to self determination were denied not only by Turkish Muslims such as Muftapha Kemal and Noureddin Pasha, but by the western powers looking to protect their economic and geostratic interests at the expense of the Eastern Churches. In September 1922, the Metropolitan of Smyrna, Chrysostomos was butchered and thrown into the sea. French soldiers who witnessed this horror did not intervene.

In fact, the French, Italians, British, and Americans armed the Turks while denying the Greek army the means to effectively fight Kemal's forces. In 1923, Asia Minor was ethnically cleansed when over one million Greeks were expelled upon the orders of Mustapha Kemal. The region where the Seven Ecumenical Councils took place was cleansed of Christianity.

On September 6, 1955 the Turkish government (now secular but as fanatical and anti-Christian as is predeccessors) sponsored a vicious pogrom against the Greeks of Constantinople. Most Greeks fled the former Christian Capital and there are only 2,500 left today. Over the past eight years, there have been four bombings of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by fundamentalist extremists. There is no coverage of this in western media just as the slaughter of Turkey's Christian populations is virtually unknown by most westerners.

Since 1984, over two million Christians in the Sudan have been killed in genocidal assaults by the country's Fundamentalist regime. There have been wide reports that black Christians are literally slaves who are purchased like property, owned, and then sold. Yet, the United States, Europe, NATO, and CNN have been rather quiet.

In Egypt, the ancient Coptic Church has been suffering for centuries. Christians are discriminated against, beaten, terrorized, and murdered while their Churches are desecrated and destroyed. When Fundamentalist's embarked on a terror campain against western tourists a few years ago, these attacks were widely reported. The Copts were not mentioned.

Armenian Christians have been fighting for their survival in Nagorno Karabakh against Azerbaijan since 1988. The Armenians were almost annihilated as a result of the Turkish Genocide, yet western companies are looking to placate Turkey by lobbying to prevent recognition by the United States of the Armenian genocide and are interested in Oil in areas like Azerbaijan which leads them to oppose the humanitarian interests of Armenia.

The last decade has been a painful one for Eastern Orthodox Christians. The 1990's began happily enough with the collapse of Communism and the liberation of Orthodox Churches in Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia. However, when Serbs reacted to the revival of fascism in Croatia and of Islamic Fundamentalism in Bosnia, and proceeded to defend themselves they were condemned by the entire world.

It was during the Bosnian war that the Clinton administration chose to allow mass murderers like Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan, Saudia Arabia, and Turkey to invade the Balkans to fight the Serbs were seeking to fulfill their right to self determination. The madness of the west's policy in the Balkans reached its apogee when it declared war on Christian Serbia in 1999 and NATO proceeded to bomb not only military targets but civilian targets such as Monastaries, Hospitals, and trains. Furthermore, the use of depleted Uranium by NATO has been the cause of Cancer and Leukemia among soldiers and civilians.

In December 1998, the Clinton administration announced it would not bomb Iraq during the month of Ramadan when Muslims fast. This was despite claims by the administration that Baghdad was developing weapons of mass destruction. Yet on Orthodox Easter 1999, NATO bombs continued to fall on Serbia without interruption.

It must be noted that Osama Bin Laden, the architect of mass murder and human suffering had established a base in Albania, Bosnia (who's government is said to have given him a passport) and NATO occupied Kosovo. In fact, the detaching of Kosovo from Serbia by NATO is the west's most recent sacrifice of Eastern Christianity.

It should be noted that there is tolerance for Christianity in the Islamic world. Iran has a large Armenian community and allows its Christians to be elected to Parliament and to be sworn in on a Bible. Syria has long been known for its tolerance of Christianity. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch is located in Damascus and has a flock of at least half a million or so. Iraq likewise tolerates its Christian communities. In Palestine, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate recently received the support of the Palestinian leadership against the intervention of the Israelis in its recent election.

Over the last several years, there have been various anti-Orthodox commentaries in the western media. The Serbs in particular have been demonized. Some writers have accused Greece of being "Muslim hating". This is particularly bizarre in light of the history of suffering that Orthodox Christians have experienced.

The attack on the World Trade Center was an act of barbarism. Religion should not be confused with political extremism. Yet, barbaric acts like this by religious fanatics are routine for Eastern Christians struggling to survive in some Muslim countries. It is my fervent wish and hope that America will recognize the fanatical zeolots and what they are capable of, and that America and Europe will finally not only acknowledge Eastern Christianity and its bloody experiences, but it will stop sacrificing the Eastern Churches and their flocks to the likes of Turkey, (has a strong fundamentalist movement and an Islamic partner in government) Egypt, Bosnia, and others.



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