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tv   Janine di Giovanni The Vanishing  CSPAN  January 18, 2022 4:00am-5:01am EST

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the plight of christian communities in syria , egypt, iraq and palestine. >> janine has been with us is 2018. she's a columnist of foreign-policy and award-winning author and journalist . she has dedicated her life to courageous work in war zones and humanitarian crisis around the world. she has reported extensively on the front line is a
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first-hand witness from the middle east, the balkans, across africa and from southeast and central asia and were so thankful to have her here teaching classes that draw on these just incredible experiences. she was a recipient of the prestigious guggenheim lotion which enabled her to travel and report extensively from gaza, iraq, syria and egypt for "the vanishing: faith, loss, and the twilight of christianity in the land of the prophets" and the book is a portrait of her own faith journey as a conflict reporter for more than 35 years as well as heartbreaking challenges confronting christian communities in the middle east and we're delighted to have janine with us today. i'm going to ask a few questions just to get it going but i want to keep this informal and fun so the audience can feel free to raise their hand on zoom. feel free to type your questions and we will get to
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those so thank you so much working with us. >> it's great to be here in person. >> where all sort of adjusting finally to having the in person interaction and as much as we love zoom, it's just so much fun to have draw on the enthusiasm in the room in addition to our virtual colleagues so you were born and raised as a roman catholic. as you note in the bookyou've worked as a journalist in war zones for 35 years . just help us understand the role that your own personal faith has played, not just in thinking about the book and why you wanted to home in on these ancient christian communities in the middle east but how faith sustains you for doing what you do. it's not something we often talk about but you witnessed so many atrocities. you'vebeen in great personal risk .what does faith mean
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to you and why is that an important element of study and what it means to be a journalist from your perspective? >> it's a really good question because so many of the conflicts i've reported, whether it'sisrael palestine or the balkans, bosnia , kosovo come down to four people say this is all about religion or faith. people particularly in the middle east . and yet for me, what i did on the ground as a witness and as a human rights investigator was very separate from me as a person. although when you live amongst, if you're living in a warzone and i'm thinking very strongly right now of my time in sarajevo . it was living under siege in the city thatwas completely blockaded . and was very scary.
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there was shelling all the time. there was sniping but there was a catholic church that was open throughout this period and to get to it was actually the cathedral on marcella tito street, i don't know if anybody knows sarajevo but to reach it was great peril. you had to like run out to snipers alley and it was the main thoroughfare that people called snipers alley because people who were on the hills above could basically target you . but yet when i arrived there, i found such solace and such peace in the middle of an incredibly emotionless time and a very scary time. because essentially if you're living through war your very much alone. even if there are people around you. it's whether or not you live, you died or whether ornot you get shot or in the wrong place at the wrong time and get hit by a piece of shrapnel . it's very individual. but yet when i was in this
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church i look around me and there were all kinds of people. young people, old ladies. who were sitting very quietly if not at peace but praying for something. and i felt very much a part of a community. even though we didn't each other. and on christmas eve 1992, it was one of the most moving experiences i've everhad. it was midnight mass , christmas midnight mass and also, it's very representative because sarajevo was being ripped apart and bosnia was being ripped apart i nationalists that wanted to say this is not a multicultural place. we want it to be a homogenous place yet it was. there were christian orthodox . there were jews. there were muslims and all mixed and sarajevo was a cosmopolitan, wonderful city prewar . so christmas eve, i was told
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there was going to be a midnight mass but it couldn't be said midnight because they could target the church and part part of targeting and shelling is you try to get a lot of people in the same place at the same time so they sent out a message it would happen at a certain time of day . i think it was 7:00 i went with a colleague ofmine who is now dead . he was a wonderful journalist who was murdered in sierra leone when we were working there on another terrible war but the two of us find up to the top of the church and we saw this the soldiers come in from the front line, the catholic soldiers. they shuffled in and they went to receive communion and they were this rag tail bunch because the bosnians had no defense force so they were in sneakers, it's the middle of winter and they had hunting
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rifles, they didn't have real rifles and they came to receive communion and everyone sang silent night and it was just one of the most remarkable memories of my life and everywhere i went in war zones whether it was baghdad,mosul , cairo, wherever i was, gaza. i always went to church is because i felt like personally it's solace but also it gives me a handle on how people are thinking and living. so it's very much a part of i tell people it is my moral compass. >> i appreciate you sharing that personal reflection on the role that faith has played in your life and sustaining you through some very difficult times. and it really comes out i think in the book in the four communities that we look at. the christian ancient communities in gaza and in
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iraq, in syria, in egypt. give us a sense of how faith sustains them. they are of course facing heartbreaking discrimination, persecution, horrific violence as yourecount in detail in the book . yet many choose not to flee even in the face of this. what role does faith play in sustaining and perpetuating these communities that you lookedat ? >> i focused on four people, for groups of people. there, syria, gaza and egypt. all of them are very different. all of them face very different challenges. but overwhelmingly the theme is that they are at risk of being eradicated. some quicker than others. but let's look at the rack. rack i first was aware of the
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ancient christians because the land of the prophets, the apostles was ninevah and north mosul and the northern plains which runs into curtis dan. it's where jonah and the whale or st. thomas the apostle are all of the apostles who basically went there to be evangelicalsand to gain more from their flock . in 2003 as saddam hussein was about to fall, i was living in baghdad and i was working as a journalist and i had opened up a bureau in the ministry of information. saddam hussein's ministry of information. i can't explain how paranoid that time was under saddam hussein. everything was bombed. we were allowed to have cell phones. you couldn't have any kind of communication. i had a satellite phone but every night you were only
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allowed to use it under the guidance of the ministry and every night they would seal it with sealing wax and put a stamp on it and in the morning there was a creepy guy that would come and open it for me and just as a sidebar this man had no fingernails . they had been ripped out like under torture and every day he would open my satellite phone and i would stare at his fingernails think what did he do that he was in saddam's prison? what happened to this man? something happened that was so terrible that he was putin prison and his fingernails were ripped out . my friendsstroke of pure luck , i was given ... i got permission to drive the entire length and width of the rack. this kind of thing never happens but i have an assignment for national geographic and after much pleading and bribing, i got
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in permission to make this trip. and i was seeing an end that would disappear forever once the invasion happened in 2003 . i would never again nor would anyone else see a rack in this way. so i got in my car with my driver who was a palestinian guy turned out was reporting back on the everything i did to the secret police and my fixer who was a very hot tempered iraqi guy who was a filmmaker. the three of us basically drove from the south, basra all the way to the north along the way the north of mosul we came upon the christian communities which were the syrians , the orthodox syriac's, the sex
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are unbelievably confusing. i spent four years trying to unravel their different dogma and is proven to be very complicated. but what i saw from these people was first a deep fear of the coming invasion, the 2003 bush invasion because christians in iraq like christians in syria and christian cops in egypt had been in some waysprotected by dictators . so they were, saddam protected them or allow them to live the way they wanted to live and they were terrified that what was coming would be kind of sunni extremism which would attempt to eradicate them. so they were in great anguish the first time i started working with those communities and ironically 12 years later i was in baghdad in june 2014.
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when the islamic state rolled through.and literally for these people that was the end of days. ice is seemingly did not come out of nowhere. i was working in syria at the time as well so we were aware of the rise of isis but for these people, they stayed in their villages until the last moment and it's interesting you ask thisquestion . why didn't theygo ? their land, their ancestral home is so important to them and they know if they leave, christians in that area will disappear. now, the numbers are really i mean, i'm not a numbers person because i think numbers never tell the true story so for instance in syria the un stopped counting the day due to the war in
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2016 we have no idea how many people were killed. no idea how many christians are left in iraq but we just that in the last census which is in the time of saddam so 40 years ago there were 1.5 million. today, we wager between 150,000 and some say it's 300,000 i say postage 150,000 . so why are they leaving? those that survived isis appeared more radical groups especially the iranian backed militias, the popular mobilization forces and they fear turkish airstrikes. they fear more extremist groups coming through. so basically that is a major consideration. the second climate change iraq is the number five on the list of the un's most vulnerable so their farmlands and many of the christians had these huge farms because ninevah was one of the bread
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basket and they, when isis went through they destroy their irrigationsystem . so droughts, extreme climate, temperature change. for those of you that have worked in the middle east you know at night in the summer you always sleep on the rooftops. you just a mattress up there and stay up there all night it's so unbearably hot. the last time i was there at 2:00 in the morning on the roof it was 104 degrees. just radical kind of ships in extreme temperature. the great rivers like the euphrates and tigris were threatened so climate change, migrants. migration. a lot of christians when the trump muslim band came about in 2016 2017, christians from our badlands to come to the us.
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muslims could not. and that community to me was deeply worrying because as someone who worked for the refugee agency i thought it sent a terrible message that we have good refugees, christians and bad refugees, muslims and i thought this was a terrible on every level precedents and for other reasons as well. but the christians that could get out, many of them the diaspora is huge. everywhere i go i run into an assyrian 's grandparents are syrians from iran or iraq. the diaspora is huge and many of them felt that they had better opportunities elsewhere. but they were very poor because they knew that if they leave, they're leaving this very important symbol they need to have. so that and the third thing is the lack of industry. so whenever people say to me
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what policy recommendations do you have i say they must support them in initiative. that's just there. we can turn maybe to a few of the other countries that you focus on and again, i'd recommend the book to delve into these different christian communities in greater detail. and we can come back to iraq for those of you who i'm sure have questions because of the work that janine has done in the aftermath or rise of isis and the siege of mosul is extraordinary. the gaza strip is not a place that you associate with christian communities. i think according to your book there are about 800, 800 christians in the gaza strip sandwiched between thomas on one side and israeli defense forces on the other side .
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help us understand how a community like that continues to live and in almost unbelievably challenging circumstances. as you note this is a community very much at risk of being extinguished in the next century it's lasted pretty long. all things considered. so give us a sense of how committed he likes that continues to thrive and is there any prospect in your view in having this ancient civilization continue in the region as it is a little background on gaza, it's a tiny strip of land 14 miles by seven miles with 2 million people. in the un back in i think 2014 said that by 2020, gaza would be unlivable. we're now coming into 2022.
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the low water resources, the lack of electricity, the grids being hit over and over by bombing. basically being hemmed in. the greatest challenge. i just got back. i was there in july andaugust . it's the lack of restrictions. some 2 million people think of it in 14 miles by seven miles. it's very heavily populated. of bombing, the israeli bombing 11 days in may devastated it even more so any time there is an incursion it just hits the grid. theelectricity grids, the water system even more . what i worry about and i've been working in gossip is 1990 is the complacency. that people have become in a way both israelis and palestinians that this is just the way it is. and it's always going tobe like that . so this there's new
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generations that are born and raised in gaza who never get out and yet these are the most educated people in the middle east. it has the highest rate of education of preschool and early school. people even in the poorest refugee camps take great pride in sending their kids to school. many of my friends in gaza speak perfect english without an accent and one or two other languages they learned on youtube because they can never leave . so the restriction on the movement means let's get back to the christians but i just want to really stress that the humanitarian situation is on a breaking point for everyone there. muslim, christian, buddhist, whoeveris there . it's a terrible situation. and i have a piece coming out in vanity fair in january which is about the focus on actually the use and tremendous potential that
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they have if only wecould give them a chance . so the christians, since i've been working since 1990 like you i have noidea . i knew there was a small christian community cause a few years back the baptist bookstore got burned down when hamas came into power and i remember thinking baptist bookstore? then on my subsequent trips back and forth i started visiting the christians there and there ancient. all these people are ancient people. when you the assyrians in iraq, when you speak to the greek orthodox in gaza, you have a sense ofthe tremendous weight of history that they hold . and christianity, the gaza strip was completely christian until first century and these people are the descendents of those people. so it's kind of mind-boggling
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. they lived there, they resisted integrating even though many of those families and relatives have and to them they endure the bombings, the water, everything else but also for them it's important to get to bethlehem just this kind of seat of their faith . london and jerusalem for the holidays forchristmas and easter and they can't leave . so that's very painful for them. the fact that theycan't get jobs and again , like this tremendously educated population. one young dentist for me he had just finished dental school in gaza and said there's one job for every 11 dental graduates. and they can't find work and yet they don't want to leave because if they leave they
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know they will be in exile forever . and kind of longing for their homeland and longingfor palestine and yet there's so little they can do their . >> thank you for that and maybe i'll ask you a question of syria and egypt just rounding out your studyof these communities . i want to open it up to the comments and questions from all of you in the audience as well as on zoom feel free to submit those questions on zoom as we go. let's go to syria and you have a riveting story in the book about the christian town of melula northeast of damascus and of course rebel forcesattacked it during the syrian civil war in 2013 . similar to what you were describing about the iraqi question, this is a christian
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community that had a couple get it to say the least relationship with bashar al assad who was providing at least some semblance of stable any. this is a community that is in some ways thankful maybe. what's your view on how assad has come out now having almost won the civil war with of course the support of iran and russia and hezbollah but in this horrific series of atrocities this was still the person who this community looked to for some semblance of security and stability so how do you understand where this community stands today given all that's happened from the situation in syria. as you note so many have fled but where do we go from here? >> it's like a sad conclusion that we have to make is that
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assad has won the war. i don't think winning is the right term because it's a devastated country that he's now going topreside over . and horribly this is a man with a tremendous amount of blood on his hands that will then be taking this country again into his hands and when you think back to why the war started, it was about the call for freedom. so the syrian revolution was the last of the arab spring uprisings. it first started in tunisia and egypt and libya and finally syria and the call was we want our freedom and the really tragic thing for me is the opposition who really started by and large in nonviolence, peaceful revolution then turned armed and was hijacked by many radical groups including hts now control the last pocket
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idlib. the christian melula was fascinating because for those of you who don't knowthere were two ways to enter syria as a reporter , as a humanitarian's weren't allowed in but you can either go ... the regime would give you permission and you get a visa and people like me went to countries that support assad russia, china, polish journalists sometimes got visas or journalists that supported assad. they would give them visas and the other way is you went across the border to turkey and went illegally and that was possible until isis took control of the checkpoints and started killing my colleagues. steve saw off and jim foley were beheaded by isis but in
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the beginning for some reason i slipped through the cracks and the regime was giving me visas. i went and of course i was followed and targeted by the secret police but i managed to do some traveling around and i got to melula which was this extraordinary place because it was like an oasis of peace in the middle of a war beginning to break out and you knew in these early days was going to be a horrible war and i met these nuns and they were so peaceful. so gentle but such vehement supporters of assad. they were chanting the same thing that they guys in homs were chanting. they were fierce assad supporters. i thought as always when you're a journalist or a documentarian, i wonder if
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they were afraid and that's why they were saying this to me but i genuinely believed after seeing them and spending timethat they did support assad .the thing about melula is it changed hands so many times. it was in government control and it went to pre-syria are in control and it got occupied by jihadists at one point and it went back to government control. throughout it all the journalists i knew a few of them got kidnapped and stood up and they're okay now but a lot of the people left . the christians that were there who were frightened as they told me, of the black flag. they were frightened of radical sunni groups taking power and that's why in a sense they said we support assad because we know who he is and who he stands for. >> ..
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i'm looking to all these questions coming in on the zoom chat so we'll get there in second. the copts are the largest christian community in the arab world, and you note in the book that they face discrimination, not persecution. so maybe help us understand the different degrees or continuum of harassment that you might experience as a christian in egypt. and, of course, i'm not saying that discrimination is okay, but relative to the other communities that you look at that have been able to carve out
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some semblance of peace and stability in their community. what are some lessons that you might learn from that community? is there any way in that christian community has behaved or negotiated arrangements with her own governments and nearby areas that might be relevant to the christians in iraq or syria or gaza, or is it just unique to its own circumstance? >> the copts, the reason a lot of people say why did you include lebanon and your book? i i didn't include lebanon for specific reason. a lebanese christians are very assimilated into the political, economic and social realm of lebanon. whereas every other group i looked at are not, except for the copts. to an extent. so the copts are between again we don't know between 6% and 10% of the population so there's a lot more of them.
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and they vary drastically in socioeconomic rankings. so for instance, if you are in cairo, a wealthy suburb where many of my friends live, many of them went to the french knights, educated, wealthy families and they say outright look, we don't suffer anything. we are fine. the copts cannot by law and this is why i get into the discrimination, they cannot, they can't build churches. there are certain inheritance laws. they can't serve in the upper ranks of the military which of course is a huge, and for an apparatus in egyptian life. it is basically an arm of the government, and very strong arm of the government, especially under general sisi. and all sorts of marriage and divorce laws.
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so discrimination that is enshrined in the constitution. among the wealthy it's okay. you know, they still say to me i feel different. i still feel like i am the other. then you get the copts are living in the upper egypt, in the provinces entirely different situation. so their churches are being burnt down. they are actively being -- they are being beaten up on the way to church. they are being, as the stories they told me, completely isolated from the communities. their churches, some of them, they brought me to the churches and without chains were put up to prevent them from going to pray. certainly much more active discrimination, and i would call it persecution. and then there's also all of the many christians that are
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targeted by isis in the sinai, by al-qaeda in the sinai, by the rising radical groups in egypt. egypt in the is becoming increasingly dangerous and are general sisi because of his repression but also because of the rise of more radical groups have been emboldened by the taliban was victory. so the taliban victory has really extreme effect on christians throughout the region. because they see it as wow, these guys defeated the greatest armies on earth. this is a signal to us we brand the islamic state, we can be stronger than ever. >> and, of course, taliban has a lot of its roots in islamic egyptian islamic jihad? >> absolute from '70s. that's where not all started but where had a huge concentration. >> i'm tired of hearing my own voice i i really wanted from l of you. i'm going to call and some folks
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from the audience as well as incorporate the chat on zoom, so wanted to call on you if you hear if you could go up to the stand if you wouldn't mind and ask and just press the button to make the green light and that will allow the zoom folks to hear you. so let's get started, please go ahead and do that. and feel free pleased to introduce yourself as well. >> hello. i'm a senior and one of the students of yours. one question i had was about the coptic population in egypt. you mentioned there like -- [inaudible] culturally, politically at one point i guess i'm curious when exactly did the oppression against them like start? did it have anything to do with like the rise of the muslim brotherhood?
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did a live peacefully with the other populations and then something changed? did it just increase gradually over time? >> i couldn't hear you very well but did you say is a link to the muslim brotherhood? >> yes. >> the discrimination against them link to the muslim brotherhood, was that your question? >> yeah, so i'm curious if, it seems like they are very much ingrained in society such signals to me at one point like they don't have like much more power than they do now, there accepted and they mingle with everyone else. i guess i'm curious we did that change from that kind of peaceful to repression and persecution they faced networks i'm curious if that has anything to with the rise of the muslim brotherhood or something else? >> i would say it's 9/11. to me the world changed forever after 9/11 even in the way that
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wars are carried out. everything shifted in the sense to this global war on terrorism and, therefore, the rise of more groups, violent, nonstate actors that could act out. i think that it really in egypt it really is important to distinguish which part of egypt are talking about. the christians that i met really remote communities. like hours and hours from the bustle of cairo where it seems like literally i was back in the 1600s, and they feel and have always felt discriminated against actively, getting beaten up on the way back from church. but you know i think since 9/11 there's been much more focus on a kind of, on the i would say the minorities throughout the
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region in egypt but also throughout the region. and so i think there's been much more active focus on whether or not how they can live, how they can continue to live in these countries. i think general sisi, his egypt right now is very worn right now on human rights come to political stance on things. so i think the attempts for copts in egypt to sort of assimilated into society, again if you're in cairo and wealthy i think it's easier than if you are in, even suburbs of cairo. like i write a lot about these communities that are the garbage people, live in a suburb outside of cairo and they are the people who do all of the garbage picking and garbage collection because they work with pigs and muslims can handle pigs so the pigs do all the -- so they are
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really the people on the fringes of society still. >> thank you. we have a question on zoom from kerry who i think was reacting to comments about being in church as well as the churches that your continued to attend. she's asking do you find a tension between the personal and professional in some of the conflict reporting that you have done? and even specifically if you are at a church do you take off the journalist hat? do you view yourself as being in a moment where you're not a journalist or is this so much of your persona now that you can't really divorce these two? give us a sense of how this faith question place into some of the work you have done. >> such an interesting question because i never think of myself, i just think of myself as me, right? i don't think of myself as a journalist for teaching at yale.
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it's just me and the work i do it so interconnected with the person i am, that the two do not separate in any way. and again, like my faith is not evangelical. i am a very spiritual. i could easily, what i believe and could easily transcend to islam or to judaism. it's basically i believe in compassion and love, and doing what is right to your fellow man, and doing the right thing. those are the morals that could extend to martin luther king or ghani. it's not, it's faith but it's more about a global reckoning. i guess i don't know, i was raised a roman catholic but i suppose what i believe is probably closer to being a quaker or universe, universal,
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not the cold but -- cult. i think it's called universalism, but anyway i hope that answers it. >> that was great, thank you so much. let's see if there is anyone else in person. please. come up and introduce yourself and hit the green button or make it green. there you go. thank you so much. >> my name is abby. i am a law student some very interested in sort of, , this answer might differ by country, but whether the persecution is occurring through legal channels or whether it's mostly community norms and extra legal persecution i know in jordan, for example, there are separate court systems and family law and so depending on the religion under national id card you'll go through a different court system. i'm wondering if those legal differences exist in the countries you write about, and
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if so, how those legal structures are changing over the time period you assume. >> good question. definitely in egypt. egypt is a place where the laws are enshrined in the constitution that directly affect the copts. so for instance, churches are getting burned down, especially where many of the christian slip, the poor copts. they can't build churches. that's like a lot. then all these inheritance laws and divorce laws are very, , thr very public it appeared i that people explain them to me and it's basically for muslim men marries a christian woman is entirely different than if a christian woman marries a muslim -- opposite. the place where it's most evident is egypt. the iraqis constitution which as you know is rewritten after the
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invasion and its constantly in a state of flux. i don't think there's any provisions written in for minorities. and you probably know that the jewish population of iraq, especially -- [inaudible] hugely vibrant and important community. that was completely eradicated in the 1950s and then the 1970s. so i don't know in a sense even if there is laws that protect minorities like the stds. if you can uphold those kind of laws in the country -- yazidis. a complex society but i bd argue iraq is very much on the brink. so yeah, egypt is probably the place you should look at the most in terms of the laws and have directly affect the copts. >> thank you. great question.
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i'll get you in just a minute. you're welcome to come up to the center. i'm going to incorporate another zoom question here from peter who was noting comfortable a lot of questions about israel-palestine, as you might imagine in this zoom feed. one question noting of course the judeo-christian origins of both christianity and judaism and islam in the heart of the region. does that suggest to you in your analysis of these ancient communities that there is a possibility for interfaith dialogue or an ability to at least recognize common origins of these christian judaic and muslim societies as a way of, bridge the gap of the current conflict? or is that too abstract in your view for what's needed at the moment?
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>> absolutely. i'm a great believer in track two, diplomacy, which for those of you who don't know, truck to cut it operates in parallel -- track two, the elite powers negotiating to in wars or in conflicts. select the u.n. and governments would be track one. track two is faith leaders, women's groups, dignity grassroots, and to be these are the people that matter the most accounts they are on the ground. i lived in london for most of my adult life actually, and they used to go to a wonderful church there on pottery lane, and the priest that ran it was, he was very much involved in track two in israel-palestine along with a great philanthropist in london. you probably know him. >> yeah. >> i think absolutely faith-based groups could contribute so much to bringing healing.
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but you know, i think it's, whether it's the movement in israel or radical jihad jr whether it's evangelical christians in america who are to be as dangerous as anyone else when they aligned himself with political causes. extremism is the real -- this is what these endangered communities fear the most. if we get like-minded sensible pragmatic compassionate people who really want to do good work on the ground i think it could be extraordinary. >> thank you. yes, sir. please come on up. we'll get to you next and come back to the zoom feed. >> my name is max and i'm a student so congratulations on the book. i have a question. the reason why political power that defends christians across the globe, police -- this of course is -- [inaudible] do you see any instrumental
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potential of the vatican when it comes to addressing these very different cases, christian, although different stripe, and -- [inaudible] so is a room for vatican to be helpful in addressing these issues? thank you. >> a great question. pope francis went to iraq last year at the height of covid, really bad typing it was march and it was the time, we had yet gotten our vaccines. iraq still has at most, i'm working on a unit program right now, those people in working with can get vaccines. they're not available. he went there then. he was advised by everyone not to go, and he went because of course his background is working with people in the ghettos of buenos aires. i think that single act of courage gave so much solidarity to these embattled people.
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it was just a remarkable thing that he did. i think there has to be solidarity, , max, not just from the vatican but all of the christian communities. in america, which predominantly is a christian, , but that in brackets, i mean, the highest percentage of believers are christian, you do, people don't know about these communities in the middle east. so if they did and there was more solidarity and not just, i mean, praying for them, i mean actively trying to support them in terms of getting the industries on the ground, education so that young people stay there, and don't flee. i think it could be incredibly supportive. i think the popes visit and, therefore, the vatican did have a big influence. he has been to egypt.
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syria, actually i feel like he has been to syria but i can't remember the visit since covid or since the war. and i do think that his influence has tremendous potential. >> thank you. yes, sir. >> thank you for the presentation. i'm a first-year student in european studies. i have more exits into question. in the beginning of your presentation you mentioned the sense of loneliness. so my experience of living under the siege, this is a completely opposite, a sickly this is a highest level of community, feeling of community where people understanding their common faith, especially when there is no electricity, nothing and people just communicate.
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so how can you elaborate on your feeling of loneliness under the siege in terms of soluble? >> did you say you're from serio? >> no. i'm from eastern ukraine. >> from ukraine. >> yes, i'm from donbass. >> slavery much understand -- >> oh, yes. what it's like to be in a war zone. so the sense being in the siege or -- >> no. basically in the beginning you said people you felt high level of loneliness, living under the siege. [inaudible] for me it's completely the opposite. there was months where people were as close as possible, never, never -- >> i see, okay. >> how do you think, why you feel lonely, living there and
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feeling detached from everyone or whatever. [inaudible] >> i think probably personally i felt, i didn't feel lonely because i was busy. it was a siege and i spent most of my days either hunting for water or trying to find a source of electricity so that i could send my stories out to the world and also because i was working with people so i i was out one streets working. but accidentally lonely because this terrific things happening around me and children were being killed because they went out to build snowmen or old people being shot to the head by snipers or dying in the beds from the cold. so i felt lonely in the sense from god. i felt was more of a question of a sort of st. augustine type crisis of how can you allow this to happen? i remember reading when i was doing all my vulcan reading
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about the catholic church in world war ii having been aligned of course with -- propped up by the nazis. and how one of the bishops and i think it was -- medicare remember, after the war was excommunicated from the church by the vatican because he had been involved in atrocities against the orthodox people here the camps and places like that. i remember when he was excommunicated in some of his literacy wrote that being a a catholic meant for them being heart of a larger community around the world but no matter where he went he felt a sense of belonging. so like you could go in any church whether it's in africa or new haven and you felt that you were a small person connected to a larger thing. but once he was excommunicated he felt this tremendous loneliness. i think for me in sarajevo
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because i was very, very, very attached to bosnia, i still am, i felt this tremendous loneliness from god because i couldn't understand how such, how he could allow such tremendous suffering. and every priest and debbie rabbi and every imam i've ever asked, i've never been able to get a good answer. i think that was the source of my loneliness. it was this tremendous like i can believe, and every day for three years i saw a catalog of extraordinary grief and pain and suffering. it just amounted to this question of how can human beings do this to each other? it was kind of part of my life's work about evil and what human beings can do to each other, but at the same time in war zones and you probably know this, you see tremendous ego and use tremendous acts of courage and
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good that elevates the human spirit to a level which is extraordinary. >> thank you so much. we are running low on time. i will throw out -- i i see yr hand up, okay. let's get your comment, please. , and press the green button and speak up as well. thank you so much. >> apologies for that. i'm also a student of janine's. thank you for this. my question is i wonder what the long-term, like real sustainable solution would be for these minorities? i mean, not to lessen the crisis of the middle east but even racial minorities like populations in different arab and middle east countries face really, whether it's legal or culture or society but yes, solutions, i guess like what
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legal, what in the country, you know, might change come should happen? and also to tie back, i'm thinking here what about the christian minorities and such? how do they see themselves? is it more like a nationalist vision of i am palestinian, i am -- or is it more like a pincushion, like will save me? to tie that i guess kind of to the case of -- power of the christians involved in the arab spring? how much is their loyalty to the country versus, like you know, because we seem to go on and on but -- [inaudible] with the west for whatever, not part of us but i can imagine also i grew up in yemen in 2011
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and kind of like feeling the arab spring in really the ideals of the air spring of democracy and freedom for everyone, so i guess i mean we don't have any hope now anymore. but i don't know, like is there like, i can imagine they have hope for the people in all these countries for freedom and rights for everyone, whatever religion they are. >> your name means hope. >> yeah. >> really interesting, and i found that actually instead of being united like in iraq, for instance, i remember once writing a long piece about the syrians and i get nasty letters saying like i had paid enough attention to them. i found like the sacks were, there was not a global sense like we are all christians
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anyway they might be a royal muscles, let's stick to get a cup or royal jews, but. it was not a great sense of brotherhood across sisterhood, across the board. and to do think you're right that it was i'm in iraqi first, i'm an egyptian first, then the religion came second. because they are minorities and because they are marginalized that is a much a part of their identity. because they do feel like i am -- one woman said to me and i thought it's a great way to describe it, she was egyptian and she said, i grew up feeling as though i always come like i was wearing different clothes from nols. she did mean literally closed backpack she just felt like she was the other. i think probably existentially there is this united think, christians in the middle east or in asia are whatever and we are minorities and we need to be protected. but in their own communities there was lots of dissension which really surprised me and
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frustrated me. i think also post isis it came down to getting funds from ngos and international organizations and was getting the most attention. so very cynically but i didn't like that. that part i didn't like at all. your question about hope, well, we have to have hope, right? without that we really have to believe that ultimately in some way that these groups are going to be protected. i think in terms of policy recommendations i'm always saying we have two, it always comes down to education. gordon brown, british politician would think is tremendous, is now the u.n. envoy for education, i just think education is the thing that universally heals. whether or not it's like combating radicalization in france and the uk or whether
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dating education and training to young entrepreneurs in gaza, or whether it is educating christians anorak or syria so they could start small industries and sustain themselves and live there. we have to support and build up these communities. it's not enough to put a band aid on it. it's really having deep rooted sustainable policies that will last for generations, otherwise in 100 years with social sciences in the region to him is these people will not exist. so the ancient land, the land of jesus christ for christians, ancestral land, they will be gone. and a homogenized -- a middle of these is basically lacking these diverse communities is a middle east we don't want. you want the diversity, the rich fabric, that they bring to society. >> wow, thank you so much and
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please join me in thanking jeanene digiovanni. [applause] >> thank you for coming, everyone. >> the book is "the vanishing" and congratulations, jeanine, feel free to stick around and come up if that's okay. >> i think it's at the bookstore, too. >> at the bookstore. for those of you got as many as we could so thank you so much at all of you, thank you for bearing with us for this hybrid in person virtual event. hopefully the first of many more
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divisions in our culture without sympathizing beliefs well-being. >> hello everyone my name is britney i am the director of events at politics and prose bookstore in washington, d.c., i would like to welcome you wanted today's virtual event. before we begin to have a couple

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