We are accustomed to seeing Christians in the Middle East as always being victims of discrimination and violence. And so they are, and have been for centuries, suffering from laws (even now) which reject their claims to equal citizenship, and from sporadic but frequent and terrifying instances of persecution or mob violence.

In recent years sectarian violence has approached such a crescendo that the very existence of Christianity in the region of its birth has been put in doubt.

Why don’t Christians then take up arms, as some other persecuted groups have done? The Druze of Lebanon, who offend Islamic orthodoxy by their belief in reincarnation and liberal reinterpretation of the Koran, are famously ruthless fighters. The Alawites of Syria proved such effective soldiers that they took over first the country’s military and then its government.

Leaving aside questions of principle – the region already has more than enough armed men – the pragmatic answer is that it usually wouldn’t work. Christians are too divided to form any kind of unified political party, let alone a military unit. There are more than 20 different Christian denominations in the region and not since the advent of Islam have they ever come together to act as one.

Furthermore, most Christians are urban and many are middle class without military experience and with the option of emigration to the West.

Finally, the precedents are so ominous that they would hardly expect anything good to come from putting their heads above the parapet in such an obvious way.

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