The holiday season has now ended, but not without leaving behind a trail of devastation and a rising sense of anguish among Christian communities in the Middle East. A series of deadly assaults and ominous threats -- most dramatically the New Year's church massacre in Alexandria, Egypt, and a threat from al-Qaida in Iraq to "open the doors of destruction and rivers of blood" upon Christians -- have raised fears that Christianity may not survive in the region of its birth. The depth of the anxiety comes through in the words of Lebanon's former-President Amin Gemayel, who declared, "What is happening to Christians is genocide."
To be sure, Christians are facing a ruthless onslaught. And history shows that sizable religious minorities can be swept away by the tides of religious and political turmoil. Turkey, for example, was once home to millions of Christians. It is now an almost exclusively Muslim nation. Enormous, once-thriving Jewish communities have disappeared from most of the Middle East. But today's Christian communities in the region, while undoubtedly threatened, are far from inevitably doomed.
Christians living in the mostly Muslim Middle East are caught in the crossfire of an epochal ideological struggle. As the people of the region battle over highly charged choices regarding the direction their societies will take, Christianity has somehow become part of the very battleground.