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Christian women gather at an Assyrian church in Irbil, Iraq
Christian women gather at an Assyrian church in Irbil, Iraq

Middle East Christians hopeful after Trump victory

Donald Trump, the next president of the United States of America – I guess those are words few of us ever expected to hear, along with ‘Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition’ and ‘Leicester City, Premier League Champions’, I went to bed early assuming that Clinton had it in the bag, and that overall this was probably the lesser of two evils. She’s awful, but I broadly agreed with PJ O’Rourke on this one.

Not that I made any endorsement; it slightly baffles me how many Brits in particular seem to forget that Americans aren’t voting for the president of the world, but their own leader, and should do what they feel is right for their nation, not what we tell them to.

Except that, of course, American foreign policy affects everyone on earth. I’d be curious to see how many of the large numbers of Middle East Christians who now live in America (many Egyptian Copts but also Iraqis, Lebanese and Palestinians) voted for Trump. Anecdotally they seem to be overwhelmingly pro-Trump, viewing his pro-Russian, anti-Saudi leanings as being good news for them. He almost certainly can’t be worse than either Bush or Obama as far as they are concerned, both of whom have been catastrophic for persecuted Christians.

Obama’s administration in particular has been extremely soft, almost sympathetic, to some dreadful Islamist groups in the Middle East, naively describing the Islamic Brotherhood as ‘largely secular’.

Not surprisingly, many Middle East Christians think Obama has Muslim sympathies and that Trump – who certainly doesn’t – could be good for them.

Trump’s warmth towards Putin will be of far more concern to Christians in strongly Catholic Poland and Lithuania, but then maybe this is an opportunity for Europeans. As I’ve argued before, as grateful as I am for America saving us from both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, it has also infantilised our continent.

Trump may be a chance for European countries to start growing up and defending ourselves; David Goodhart has suggested that British military commitment to north-east Europe could be a bargaining chip when our Brexit negotiations begin. I certainly don’t want conflict with Russia, and sympathise with some of their gripes against the west (such as the ransacking of their economy under Yeltsin) but we should also be increasing our military spending and presence in Poland and the Baltic.

Russia is a particular concern for me as a conservative; many traditionalists see Putinism as a bulwark against western decadence and their suspicion that Marxism didn’t actually lose in 1989, but reaction stripped of its moderating influences (in Russia’s case, the rule of law) is a dangerous force that can only harm European conservatism.

The upside of a change in president is that it brings the chance of peace in Syria closer, although this was probably likely whoever took over, as a new leader would find it easier to do the inevitably squalid deal that will leave Assad in power. For that reason many persecuted Christians may be celebrating the unlikely victory of the three-times married New York property tycoon.

 

– By Ed West, Catholic Herald