Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Migrants Bring a Christian Influx

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Migrants Bring a Christian Influx

Article excerpt

While pundits and activists sound alarms about an "exodus" of Christians out of the Middle East, there's also a lesser-known, but perhaps just as consequential, new influx of Christians into the region.

At the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, participants said that fully half the Christians of the region today are not the traditional Arab faithful, but guest workers, mostly new migrants from Asia and Africa.

Filipinos, Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Nigerians and other new arrivals are today taking over the construction, manufacturing and service jobs of the region. Nowhere on earth today are birth rates falling as fast as in the Middle East, which means the nations of the region will likely become increasingly dependent on such immigrants to sustain their work force.

It's conceivable that just as Europe today is going through anguished debates over cultural identity because of significant Muslim immigration, the Muslim states of the Middle East, in a generation or so, may have to grapple with a new Christian footprint.

Looking just at the Catholic population totals, seven Middle Eastern nations have seen significant increases since 1980: Saudia Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Yemen. All are part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Saudi Arabia is an especially interesting case. Home to the holy Islamic sites of Mecca and Medina, it also now contains the second-largest Catholic community in the Middle East, with what the Vatican estimates at 1.25 million believers. That trails only Lebanon's more than 2 million Maronites in terms of Catholic population. …

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