Minority syndrome: Why Christians suffer

By Amir George

Why in the world, while speaking to a group of Christians from the Middle East, would an American senator, a champion of standing up for the rights of Christians in the Middle East, be booed?

It seems inconceivable.

Unfortunately, as an Assyrian Christian whose family is from the Northern Iraqi Village of Mahoudi, east of Mosul, I understand.

It comes from a sickness that plagues not only Christians in the Middle East but in many countries where Christians, once dominant – as in Iraq, which was the first Christian nation on earth – find themselves minorities in their own land.

It is called the “minority syndrome” and is a version of “Stockholm syndrome” – a phenomenon of identifying with one’s enemy as a means of survival, often ending up adopting the moral views of the very enemy.

“Minority syndrome” is a phenomenon in which minorities within a culture become overly “patriotic” so as to overcome their minority status.

For example, before World War II, Japanese Christians were some of the first to put posters of the emperor in their churches to show their loyalty even before being asked.

I was meeting with some Iraqi officials while waiting to see the Iraqi prime minister.

They were talking about one of the Christians who was in government.

“He is more Muslim than we are” was the immediate reaction.

Of course, he was a Christian. But in his efforts to overcome his perceived minority status, he came across to the Muslims as “more Muslim” than they were, advocating positions and standing up for issues in a stronger way than even the majority had.

Though they usually don’t realize it, those who have “minority syndrome” are held in the greatest contempt by the very ones they’re trying to impress.

On Sept. 11, 2014, Christians booed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, when he stated in his keynote address to the In Defense of Christians inaugural summit in Washington, D.C., that “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”

What happened to Cruz at the conference for Middle East Christians was one of the most common expressions of the “minority syndrome.” Instead of relating as they should as Christians, fellow minorities, in an unconscious desire to be accepted by the Christians in the audience, adopted an anti-Israel worldview. This was not of out of personal conviction, but as a direct result of the “minority syndrome” of trying to be more “patriotic,” or as they put it, “more Muslim than the Muslims.”

“Minority syndrome” is a very strange disease. It has had historic ramifications throughout the Middle East, with Christians often pioneering radical positions ranging from the founding of the Baath Party by a Christian to many of the most radical Palestinian movements led by Christians. So overwhelming is their desire to please that Christians often do not even realize the effects of the “minority syndrome” on their actions.

I have similarly left many, many otherwise fruitful conversations with intelligent, well-informed Middle East Christians once their disdain for Israel is made apparent.

Read the inspiring story of the Christian Iraqis who pre-dated Muslims and have struggled for survival — Amir George’s “Liberating Iraq: The Untold Story of the Assyrian Christians”

Until and unless the Christians in the Middle East can overcome the “minority syndrome” and begin to move toward a mature and “Christian” worldview, they will continue to lose numbers, influence and power.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis put it most eloquently in a conversation we had a few years back.

“I don’t understand the Christians in the West,” he said. “They are always supporting Israel, which, of course, we are glad for. But we have our own country, we have our land, we have an army, and we can defend ourselves. The Christians of the Middle East have no country, no land, no army and nobody to protect them.”

“The best way the Christians of the West can support Israel is to support their fellow Christians in the Middle East in the way they so wonderfully support Israel.”

He was exactly right.

One of the reasons the Christians in the Middle East have fallen into the “minority syndrome” is because they are alone.

They have no country, no land, no army, and they feel abandoned. They feel they have no choice but to become “more Muslim than the Muslims.”

The Assyrian Christians of Iraq have been promised an Assyrian regional government in their historic homeland of Assyria in Northern Iraq by the Iraqi prime minister, president and more.

It is a key part of the “Biden plan.”

The Christians of the West, as Rabbi Potasnik so eloquently put it, can best support Israel by supporting this first piece of land being provided for the Assyrian Christians so they can finally have their land, their own army and the ability to govern themselves.

This is the first, small step to overcoming the “minority syndrome” and bringing a strength and self-confidence to the Christians of the Middle East. Once they get that land, they can begin to restore their historic majority status in the Middle East, which they enjoyed until the rise of Islam brought the Arabs from the deserts into the cities.

The key to peace in the Middle East is a historically balanced society in which the Christians and Jews regain their rightful place as part of and leaders of the community.

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