The Detroit News recently reported on new ethnic sensitivity training courses for Michigan police departments in highly Arab American communities. As part of the training, one counselor reminds officers that most Arab stereotypes have no grounding in fact. As an example, the counselor says few people realize that most Arab Americans are not Muslim. In fact, the News reports, 75 percent of Arab Americans are Christians.
Does it make sense the percentage is that high? According to Roy Oksnevad, director of the Department of Ministries to Muslims at Wheaton College, it does.
"There's always been a high percentage of Christians among Arab U.S. citizens," Oksnevad told Christianity Today. "The majority of them come here because they were minorities in their native countries. Much of the reason they leave is the hard life under Islam but recently there has been a mass exodus due to renewed nationalism and an Islamic resurgence."
Oksnevad said that since the late '90s, more attention in several Arab nations on their Islamic identity has placed additional pressure on Christians in those countries. This has led to far greater numbers of Arab Christians emigrating to the U.S.
"Anyone not Muslim is the focus of a lot of negative attention in many of these countries," he said. "They are not able to live out their lives as they did in the past, and minorities are persecuted. You'll also see Muslim-on-Muslim violence where Christians get caught in the middle. Eventually they choose to leave these situations. That trend has given the U.S. a high percentage of Arab Christians."
Previous Christianity Today articles on Islam include:
Muslim Phobic No More | Verbal attacks on Islam sabotage evangelism. (Dec. 16, 2002)
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