The Future of Middle Eastern Christians

The Arab Spring and the rise of Islamist parties present both opportunities and threats to the region's religious minorities.

Looking back at the past year’s transformation in the Middle East, there are reasons to be concerned as well as signs of positive development. On the bright side, democratization may indeed bring about increased pluralism, improving the visibility and integration of the region's sectarian and religious minorities. But in the shorter term, the poststabilization phase may see growing intersocietal violence, placing the region's minorities at heightened risks. In this sense, the rise in violence against Christian communities—whether in Egypt, Iraq or Syria—is worrisome for the entire region. The slow, far-from-ideal pace of the postrevolutionary democratization process and the rise of more radical Islamist groups, like the Salafists, are cause for concern among the region's Christians.

Christian communities have been gradually shrinking in the Middle East, and post-Arab Spring trends risk accelerating the pace of this process. If these trends are not reversed and Christians are not openly reassured of their security, there is a danger that within one or two generations, the Christian communities will further contract in size and visibility. Then they will more and more look like the once-flourishing Jewish communities of the Arab world.

Yoel Guzansky is a research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University and a former member of Israel's National Security Council.

Benedetta Berti is a research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University (TAU), a lecturer at TAU and a member of the Atlantic Council’s Young Atlanticist Working Group. She is the author of "Hamas and Hezbollah: A Comparative Study" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).