Mark L. Movsesian

Mark L. Movsesian is Frederick A. Whitney Professor and Director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University Law School.

Mark L. Movsesian is the Frederick A. Whitney Professor of Contract Law at St. John's University School of Law and director of its Center for Law and Religion. This essay is adapted from “The Islamic State’s Religious Cleansing and the Urgency of a Strategic Response,” remarks he gave at a conference of the Hudson Institute, New York City, May 7, 2015.

Helping Mideast Christians

In my last post, I described some of the reasons why Mideast Christians face persecution today. Historical factors explain much. Christians face social discrimination, informed by centuries of treatment as dhimmis, which makes them easy targets for violence. This is so even though, as a formal matter, the dhimma no longer applies and Christians enjoy equal rights as citizens in most Mideast countries.

The West bears blame for the current crisis as well, however, including the United States.

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No Justice, No Peace

In my last post, I briefly introduced the different communions that make up Mideast Christianity and described their historical treatment under classical Islamic law. For many centuries, Islam tolerated Christians as dhimmis, minorities subject to a notional agreement that allowed them to live in Muslim society as long as they accepted a subordinate status and did not challenge Muslim authority. Yet, as I mentioned, the dhimmi restrictions no longer apply as a formal matter in most of the Mideast, not since the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire enacted a set of reforms known as the Tanzimat, instigated by European powers, which gave Christians legal equality. In most of the Mideast today, as a formal matter, Christians and Muslims have equal rights. So what explains the violent persecution Mideast Christians now suffer—nothing short of a genocide in some places?

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The Complicated Political History of Mideast Christians

In my first post, I described the terrible conditions facing Mideast Christians today. I’d now like to explore the reasons for their current situation—which are many.

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The Remnant

For most American Christians, Christmas has come and gone. True, some sticklers will keep their trees up until Epiphany, but, for most of us, the routine of daily life has resumed. For most Mideast Christians, though, the holiday is just beginning. Armenian Apostolic Christians will celebrate Christmas, according to ancient custom, on January 6. In Egypt, Coptic Christians, the largest Christian communion in the Mideast, numbering perhaps 12 million, will celebrate on January 7, as will Orthodox Christians in Bethlehem itself. (Mideast Catholics celebrated on December 25, along with their Western counterparts). The traditional processions are scheduled for Manger Square.

For Christians, Christmas is a joyous time. But, for most Mideast Christians this year, the holiday is an uneasy one.

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The New Nationalism

Europe map

Something strange has been happening all year in Western politics. Both in the United States and Europe, events dismissed as unthinkable have occurred again and again. In June, Britons voted to leave the European Union. In November, Americans elected Donald Trump to be President. In opinion polls throughout 2016, Euroskeptic parties like Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement in Italy and the National Front in France, once derided as fringe movements, have shown continuing appeal. In fact, in Italy, Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement just combined to defeat a constitutional referendum championed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, leading Renzi to resign.

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No Protestants on the Bench

Columns at the U.S. Supreme Court

As it does every year, a new Supreme Court term has begun in Washington. This time, however, the Court’s composition is a bit unusual. At the moment, the Court has only eight members; a successor for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in February, has not yet been appointed. But the Court’s composition is unusual for another reason, too: the religious backgrounds of the justices.

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We Remember the Genocide — And We Must Avert Another

Historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenian Christians, as well as hundreds of thousands of Syriac and Greek Christians, died in a genocide that the Ottoman Empire embarked on exactly a century ago. As we look back on the history of the Armenian Genocide—and, in particular, its religious roots—we see lessons for today.

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Losing Faiths

Gerard Russell book

At an academic conference a few years ago, I met a bishop from a Catholic diocese in the Middle East. The bishop reflected on meeting local Muslim leaders just after his appointment. They were polite, he said, but not especially warm, as they suspected Christianity as a foreign influence. Still, they allowed that they were pleased the Church had sent them an actual Arab. “At least they managed to find us one of our own,” they said. The bishop laughed as he told this story. The Church had “managed to find” an Arab Christian? It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Christianity…

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