Economic Empowerment Might Be the Key to Helping Middle East Christians

December 1, 2020 | Robert Nicholson
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Throughout history, Jews have rallied to help their persecuted coreligionists abroad—from the international effort in the 17th century to buy the freedom of Ukrainian Jews sold into slavery in the Ottoman empire, to 20th-century efforts to free Soviet Jewry, to Israel’s rescue of Jews from Ethiopia, Yemen, and elsewhere. But Christians in recent years have had limited success in aiding the beleaguered Christian minorities of the Middle East. In the recent war in the Caucasus, Armenian Christians have suffered at the hands of Muslim Azerbaijan, and American Christians’ attempts to lobby their government to help have been stymied by the fact that Washington shares common interests with Baku. Robert Nicholson suggests a new approach that goes beyond the usual “bullets or band-aids”:

The time has come to shift our focus from state power to private investment, linking Christian businessmen in the West with those in the Middle East to open companies, develop properties, and transport local products to market. This was the survival strategy of the early church, whose members pooled their wealth for the benefit of all. It demands more creativity and determination, . . . but it promises more dignified and permanent results.

A peaceful economic crusade will prioritize Christian communities that have critical mass and favorable conditions for investment. Here, the significance of Armenia becomes obvious. Not only does Armenia rank high on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, it also boasts an emerging high-tech sector and inexpensive yet skilled labor.

Its Christians have something that others in the region only dream of: political sovereignty, which amplifies any investment in three dimensions. A strong economy means greater engagement from potential allies and greater resilience against local enemies. It also turns Armenia into a safe haven for regional Christians looking for better opportunity and, if needed, emergency asylum among other indigenous believers.

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