Reading ”The Lost History of Christianity” (2008) by Philip Jenkins is really an enlightening and challenging experience which I can recommend to others interested in the history of the Christianity in its interactions with other religions.
Jenkins reminds us that around 1900 Christians made up about 11 % of the population of the Middle East, and points out – if we should have forgotten it – that since then ”Christians have ceased to exist altogether – are ceasing to exist – as organized communities.” And he goes on to conclude that whether the causes of that change are religious or polititical ”the result was to create a Muslim world that was just as Christian-free as large sections of Europe would be Jew-free after the Second World War. And in both instances, the major mechanism of change was the same. For alle the reasons we can suggest for long-term decline, for all the temptations to assimilate, the largest single factor for Christian decline was organize violence, whether in the form of massacre, expulsion, or forced migration” (p. 141).
All religious communities, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu etc., have in their history events and periods which contradict the noblest ideals of these religions. It is not healthy, however, for any religious community to pretend that this was not part of their history. In Europe we have to face the reality of persecutions of Jews and the holocaust. In the same way as people in the Middle East have to face the reality of the persecution of Christians and cases of genocide, and people in Turkye will have to face the history of the Armenian genocide. Some of these tragic events took place long ago, others is part of our modern history. If we refuse to face the harsh reality and learn from our history, we may be more likely to bring ourselves – and others – in a positition where we – and others – repeat the holocausts and genocides of history.
Christiansfeld, Saturday, May 23, 2009
Mogens S. Mogensen