We Westerners like to believe we care a lot about the Christians of the Middle East. Their exodus is one of the epic tragedies of our times, one of the three great monotheist religions effectively torn from the soil of the Holy Land in which it was born; Egyptian Copts, Syrian Maronites, Iraqi Orthodox Christians, ripped apart, quite literally, in the attacks of the Islamists who treat them as crusaders, collaborators, apostates. We welcome Christian refugees in the West because we feel they are “our” people, perhaps because we also suspect – the notion is ridiculous, of course – that Christianity is now a “Western” rather than an Eastern religion. Hence I often find myself confronted by Armenian bishops or Catholic priests who beg the West to stop encouraging their flock to leave the Middle East – since they will only drown in a “sea of secularism” in Europe and America.
But we have a selective memory. Almost exactly a year ago, the 56-year-old Jordanian Arab Christian journalist Nahed Hattar was assassinated in the very centre of Amman by an Islamist “well known” to the security authorities (as we like to say in Britain) as Hattar prepared to defend himself against Jordanian government charges of “incitement”. Hands up those readers who remember this feisty, eloquent, provocative and brilliant writer’s death?