Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Lebanon’s Christians Resist Exodus from Worst Economic Collapse in 150 Years

Image: Illustration by Mallory Rentsch / Source Images: WikiMedia Commons / Nick Ut / Getty Images

In 2019, as Lebanon witnessed an unprecedented uprising against its entire political class, evangelical sermons grappled with applied theology:

Whether to join in for justice or honor the king.

Two years later, amid an economic collapse the World Bank says is the worst in 150 years, Lebanese Christians face an even greater pastoral challenge:

Whether to stay and help or escape abroad.

The nation has largely made up its mind.

Estimates indicate as many as 380,000 people have left Lebanon. Every day witnesses another 8,000 passport applications. Food prices have increased 557 percent since the uprising, as the inflation rate has now surged past perennial basket cases Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Once featuring an economically vibrant middle-class, Lebanon now has a poverty rate of 78 percent. The minimum wage of $450 per month has devalued to a mere $33.

“Ask first: Where can I love the Lord, obey the Lord, and serve the Lord—me and my family?” Hikmat Kashouh, pastor of Resurrection Church Beirut, preached in his recent sermon.

“Praying faithfully, we may come up with different decisions.”

Kashouh urged people not to emigrate easily, to seek counsel with church leaders, and to help the suffering whether they stay or leave.

Fellow evangelical pastor Walid Zailaa, however, was blunt in his assessment.

“Your presence is important. How can we enact God’s will if you are not here?” preached the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mansourieh. “If you want to search for a better life for yourself and your children, it is your right.

“But it says to God: You are not able to provide for me in Lebanon.”

Even the lions and tigers are leaving.

“Lebanon is not fit for man or animal,” said Bassam Haddad, who runs discovery Bible studies alongside relief efforts. “But I am optimistic—not for the country, but for God’s work.” Since 2012, his lay-led church services…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on October 29, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.


The Immigration of Roots

Over the past several years, and increasingly over the past several months, Iraq has nearly been emptied of its historical Christian population. This short film by the newspaper al-Badeel explores how Egyptian Christians contemplate the issue of immigration. It is subtitled in English, and provides a very good overview of how many Copts view the subject.

Egypt, of course, has not faced nearly the same level of chaos and disintegration as Iraq. But the film is full of images of burned churches that remind of the difficulty the nation has endured. Egypt also comprises a far higher population – both overall and of Christian citizens – which make it better able to withstand a gradual emigration which has resulted in Coptic Orthodox churches the world over.

But emigration takes its toll, usually robbing a nation of its best and its brightest who can afford to move overseas and stand a decent chance at finding work. This theme is stated often by those interviewed, while the theme of religious persecution is generally nuanced though it lingers.

Have sympathy, and enjoy the window into a slice of Coptic consciousness. Alas.


Atlantic Council Middle East Published Articles

Emigration at Easter: Fight, Flight, and Resignation

From my latest article in Egypt Source, culling attitudes on emigration from a recent trip to Upper Egypt:

Sara Shuhdi
Sara Shuhdi

“I have nightmares every couple of days,” said Sara Shuhdi, a 23 year old assistant professor of analytical chemistry at the German University of Cairo. “I don’t see a bright future for Egypt; maybe it would be better for me if I left.”

Fifty-five days of fasting concluded on Coptic Easter, celebrated this year on May 5 according to the eastern calendar. Always a period of reflection and joy for Egyptian Christians, this year the community is deeper in the former and subdued in the latter.

Here are the photos of each person sharing, with a quote from each:

Fr. Seraphim, an Orthodox priest in Dayrut
Fr. Seraphim, an Orthodox priest in Dayrut

“Of course we must stay here,” he said. “Our history, family, and churches are here – we cannot leave Egypt.”

Emad Awny, a businessman in Asyut
Emad Awny, a businessman in Asyut

“The civil current – Muslims and Christians together – must provide a different way of thought and raise consciousness through business,” he said, “especially in poorer areas susceptible to extremism and ignorance.”

Fr. Kyrillos, an Orthodox priest in Saragna
Fr. Kyrillos, an Orthodox priest in Saragna

“Twenty years ago, I tried to convince Copts not to emigrate, but now because of the bad economy I bless them if they want to go.”

Bishop Thomas of Qussia
Bishop Thomas of Qussia

“I raised people here, trained them, and watched them grow and become productive members of society,” he said. “And then they leave? It is sad.

“I can’t prevent them but I encourage them to stay. I try to speak to their conscience to make their land a better place. Why would someone leave their home and become a foreigner forever?”

The article concludes with a stinging quote by Bishop Thomas for the conscience of humanity; please click here to read the whole article at Egypt Source.