Can Christians survive the ‘dirty games’ of Middle East politics?

(CNAby Kevin J. Jones) Christians have lived in the Middle East since the time of the apostles, but political machinations by world powers and other groups put these communities at risk of extinction, a Jordanian priest fears.
“Who are the main players in these ‘dirty games’? Behind the scenes?” Father Rifat Bader asked journalists at his church near Amman on Oct. 28. “I think many nations are involved in dirty games.”
“But the thing that I cannot understand really: Why do the Christians have to go out of the game?” he asked. “Why, we are part of our societies! So let us be considered as part of the game! Not out of it.”
Fr. Bader, the general director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, is pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Latin Rite Catholic Church in the Jordanian capital.
The priest cited Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Sako’s September 2014 comments about “dirty political games” in the Middle East.
Fr. Bader noted that the early 20th century actions of Western powers in the region, such as the Sykes-Picot Agreement the United Kingdom and France secretly contracted during World War I to divide the territory of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the war. He predicted similar action in the Middle East in the 21st century.

“Now we have a new Sykes-Picot, with new divisions,” he said.

Fr. Bader was also sceptical of United States policy in the region. In his view, religious minorities “are not a real concern for the U.S. government.”
The aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 has been hard for many, particularly for Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities. Iraq’s Christian population declined from about 1.4 million people to only 400,000. The rapid expansion of the Islamic State group in 2014 only worsened their plight, as the group captured historically Christian towns and cities with large Christian populations such as Mosul, and imposed an extreme version of Islamic law.
The Islamic State’s rise has compounded the crisis in neighboring Syria, where a civil war continues to rage between the government of President Bashar Assad and several rebel coalitions, including the Islamic State. The political backers of the Islamic State are a topic of intense speculation in the region.

Fr. Bader said that the Islamic State was “fiercest” first against the Christians. “And then came the Yazidis, and then the Kurds,” he said, listing the militants’ other targets.

“The first part of this dirty game was against the Christians,” he said. “They didn’t have time to think.”
Fr. Bader’s church has hosted several dozen …