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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 20:23 GMT
Christianity in the Middle East
A measured debate 2000 GMT - Peter

We felt we opened the lid on an issue that many listeners had not considered previously - Adams in Nnewi, Nigeria sent a text message to say that "the western media's presentation of the Middle East suggests no presence of Christians" in the region.

That sentiment was expanded upon by Ata, a Christian Lebanese living in France, who sent this email:

    One main problem for Christian Arabs, is with the medias and the occidental world, where the world "Arab" is equivalent to "Muslim". Although the majority of Arabs are Muslims, the Christian Arabs have been among the most enthusiastic and active defenders of the Arabic culture and nation.
    This truth has unfortunately been forgotten by most of the Arab Muslims, mainly because of growing religious fanaticism and its accompanying propaganda of ignorance.
    Places where Muslim/Christian religious cohabitation still exist (like Lebanon and Syria) should be encouraged, and preserved.

And while most of our callers suggested that there wasn't too much discrimination, it does seem to have got worse in recent years.

Sherif in Cairo and Mina in Alexandria agreed that they didn't notice any growing up. Sherif now lives in New York, and he felt better about the current situation than Mina.

That highlights a problem we had - a lot of the Christians who emailed the web site didn't feel comfortable talking about the issue on the radio, even though we offered not to use their real names.

But often the main problem for Christians in the Middle East was universal - economics.

Dr Harry Hagopian, a former assistant secretary general of the Middle East Council of Churches, was in the studio and his discussions with our callers often came back to the lack of economic opportunity.

Have a listen to the programme and let us know what you think - worldhaveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Faith 1335 GMT - Peter

What's it like being a Christian in largely Muslim Arab countries? That's the question we hope to answer today as we look at Christianity in the Middle East.

We'll be talking to callers from across the region, both Christian and Muslim, asking them about their experiences and opinions.

And of course, if you have an opinion - no matter where you live - you can join the debate online.

And if you'd like to take part in the programme, please e-mail us or leave a comment using the form below. If you include your telephone number we'll try to call you back.


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