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Maronites and Armenians The Brave Freedom Fighters

The origin of Christianity is in the Middle East Region. Christianity was the major religion here from the time of Jesus and for some time after the Muslim Conquests of the 7th century.

Today, due to armed conflicts, pressure from radical Islam, economic hardship or persecution, there are only 12 to 15 million Christians in the Middle East. Here are types of persecution of Christians in the Middle East: Religious persecution of individuals (human rights abuse, persecution against individuals because of their religious affiliation). And political oppression of religious communities, for example Christians are systematically discriminated against on the constitutional, political, administrative, and cultural levels. Christians, during the early times of Islam, were also exempted from paying jizya (the extra tax imposed on non-Muslims (Dhimmis) who live under Muslim rule according to the Qur'an and hadith) and Kharaj (tax to remain and cultivate the land).

Now, Christian community in Middle East is Copts (in Egypt), Maronites (in Lebanon), Assyrians (in Kurdish zone of Iraq), Armenians, Christians of Syria, Melkites and Orthodox. As a dhimmi (a conquered people), they must live a second class life. Dhimmis were often prohibited from working in many occupations. Although dhimmis were allowed to perform their religious rituals, there are an obligation on dhimmis not to "restore, by night or by day, any places of worship that have fallen into ruin. Loud prayers were also forbidden, as was the ringing of church bells or the trumpeting of shofars. In the civil court, dhimmi testimony and oaths were not valid against Muslims.

Maronites and Armenians has bloody history to keep their freedom and their existence. The history of the Maronite people starting at the third century, time of Saint Maroon to the present. The Maronite Church prominent especially in modern Lebanon. In the 8th century, The Muslim caliphate sent a force to occupy the land of the Maronites and destroy it. Secure in their mountain strongholds, the Muslim caliphate could not absorb the Maronites. Then, during the Crusades in the 12th century, Maronites assisted the Crusaders and affirmed their affiliation with the Holy See in Rome in 1182. After the defeat of the Crusaders, persecution began with the Mamlooks, who attacked the strongholds of the Maronites sowing destruction in Maronites community. The Maronites had to learn how to survive and to protect their freedom after this tragedy. The Maronites opened themselves to cooperate with their neighbour. Under the Ottoman empire, The Maronites were granted protection by France. But, in the 19th century, there are persecution of the Maronites by Muslim. Thousands were martyred or displaced, and many immigrated. The Maronites were also essential in abolishing illiteracy and propagating knowledge. These achievements enabled the Maronites to enter the modern ages in the Arab renaissance. As the result of a struggle of the Maronites, there are pluralistic system in Lebanon with the basic freedom of the Maronites were guaranted.

The Armenians are an ethnic group originating in the Caucasus and in the Armenian Highlands. Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion. The Muslim Arabs first invaded Armenia in 640. But, The Arabs failed in several attempts to convert the Armenians to Islam. The Armenians always struggled for their independence. Armenians provided significant provisions and military equipment to the Crusade. Many alliances formed between the Armenians and the Crusades, resulting in Armenia becoming a vigorous Christian state where industry, trade and commerce thrived. Armenian kingdom continued to exist until 1375, when the Ottoman Turks and Arabs conquered it and divided it amongst themselves. As a dhimmi in

the Ottoman Empire, Armenians were treated very poorly. They were subject to discrimination, attacks, and murder by their Islamic rulers. In 1800s, Armenians began to ask for better treatment from the Ottoman government. But, Turkish massacres of Armenians became a common event. As the result,there are Armenian militia were irregular units who voluntarily left their families in order to fight and defend Armenian villages and city quarters from Ottoman aggression and massacres. Then, in 1894 - 1915, two million Armenians living in Turkey were eliminated from their historic homeland through forced deportations and massacres. The Armenian experience under the Ottoman is one of the savagely bloodiest chapters in the bloodied history of Islam.

Although the Maronites and Armenians has a bloody history, but they still exist with their culture, religion and identity today. They are the brave freedom fighters.

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