Regarding Michael Gerson’s Dec. 27 op-ed column, “War on Christians”:
Throughout history, Muslims have been tolerant of other faiths. For centuries, we have lived with Jews and Christians without compromising their rights; and contrary to what Mr. Gerson wrote, they have never been treated as “second-class citizens.” A visit to the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon, or a closer look at the special status Christians enjoy in these lands’ governments, academic institutions and private sector, would confirm this. The fact that some extremists are committing, in the name of Islam, abhorrent crimes against Christians in Iraq and Syria does not change this peaceful and long-lasting coexistence. Such violent episodes are antithetical to our faith.
Our strong opposition to actions by extremists against Christians is unwavering. But to suggest that “Muslim lands” need to learn tolerance is unfair. After all, the most horrible episodes of religious intolerance have historically taken place in non-Muslim lands — namely, Europe.
Though Christians are suffering during the transitions in the Arab world because of the Arab Spring, let us not forget about Palestinian Christians who continue to suffer under Israeli occupation and rising attacks by extremists. They, too, must be protected as they continue to emigrate because of those hardships.
Christians are an integral part of our communities, and protecting them is a paramount national and social interest for us. In the end, we agree with what Pope Francis said: We, too, will not resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians.
Maen Rashid Areikat, Washington
The writer is chief representative of the general delegation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the United States.