According to the Vatican, more than half of Iraq's Christians have left the country since the US-led invasion in 2003. On New Year's, a bomb went off in a church in Egypt, killing at least 20 people. And in Nigeria a bomb destroyed a church on Christmas 2011, leaving 35 people dead.
There is no shortage of headlines on the painful events between East and West, between Muslims and Christians these days. And as a sign of its concern about recent attacks against Christians in the Middle East, the Vatican has announced it is dispatching Cardinal Tauran to Nigeria for talks and meetings.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran is the leading official in the Vatican responsible for relations between the Catholic Church and the Muslim world.
In an exclusive interview, Cardinal Tauran talks about the attacks against Christians in the Middle East. Who is behind the attacks? What is the fate of Christian communities in the Middle East? How has the Arab Spring impacted dialogue between religions? And is there room for dialogue?
Tauran warns of a "clash of ignorance" between Muslims and Christians. "We succeeded in avoiding the clash of civilisations, let us avoid a clash of ignorance." In Europe, "there is a fear of Islam, but it is due to ignorance," says Tauran.
"If you speak to right-wing groups, you realise that they have never opened a Quran and never met a Muslim. There needs to be a big effort to educate, to inform them... Because most of the problems are coming from misinterpretation or ignorance."
In terms of the Middle East, Tauran says that there are school textbooks in which "Christians are never called Christians, they are called misbelievers, and this is not right."
"For me the great temptation for the Christians in the Middle East is to emigrate. I think if Christians would leave the Middle East, it would be a tragedy, because first of all they are leaving the earth where they were born because Christians have always been in the Middle East. And all the holy places would become museums and that would be a catastrophe... You cannot deny that they are the target of a kind of opposition. I have been in the Middle East for many years and what I felt was that Christians feel they are second-class citizens in countries where Muslims are the majority."
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Source: Al Jazeera