Christians in Muslim Lands: An ancient, contrasting and multifaceted story

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Marc Rastoin, SJ

 Marc Rastoin, SJ / Issue 1711 / 14 December 2017

Life for Christians in countries with a Muslim majority is often difficult. It is not simple even in countries that do not adhere to an integralist ideology that exploits Islam for political purposes. Some observers point out that these Christians risk being second-class citizens at the very best.

Nevertheless, Christians continue to live – and in the past they have lived for extended periods of time – in kingdoms or countries that are officially Muslim, even with a socially inferior status. Throughout history, conditions have often changed, and no doubt there has been a certain level of tolerance in some periods and places. Recall, for example, what is said of Muslim rulers in Andalusia, although it is partly legend. Even the status granted to Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire was not without some fairness, making it possible for the Christian population to survive over the centuries. In any case, great differences can be seen from region to region.

It is worth considering why Christians are still present in Egypt but have disappeared from the rest of North Africa. Let us consider five different situations in an attempt to respond to this question.

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