Christian emigration

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The phenomenon of large-scale migration of Christians is the main reason why Christians' share of the population has been declining in many countries. Many Muslim countries have witnessed disproportionately high emigration rates among their Christian minorities for several generations. Today, most Middle Eastern people in the United States are Christians, and the majority of Arabs living outside the Arab World are Arab Christians.

Push factors motivating Christians to emigrate include religious discrimination, persecution, and cleansing. Pull factors include prospects of upward mobility as well as joining relatives abroad.

Christian emigration from the Middle East[edit]

The majority of Arabs living outside the Arab World are Arab Christians. Christians have emigrated from the Middle East, a phenomenon that has been attributed to various causes included economic factors, political and military conflict, and feelings of insecurity or isolation among minority Christian populations. The higher rate of emigration among Christians, compared to other religious groups, has also been attributed to their having stronger support networks available abroad, in the form of existing emigrant communities.


As with most diaspora Arabs, a substantial proportion of the Egyptian diaspora consists of Arab Christians. The Copts have been emigrating from Egypt both to improve their economic situation and to escape systematic harassment and persecution in their homeland.


Christians and other religious minorities make up a disproportionately high share of the Iranian diaspora.


Following the Iraq War, the Christian population of Iraq has collapsed. Of the nearly 1 million Assyro-Chaldean Christians, most have emigrated to the United States, Canada, Australia and within some of the 28 member states of the European Union and most of the rest concentrated within the northern Kurdish enclave of Iraqi Kurdistan. With continuing insurgency, Iraqi Christians are under constant threat or radical Islamic violence.

Since the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the resulting breakdown of law and order in that country, many Syriac speaking Assyrians and other Christians have fled the country, taking refuge in Syria, Jordan and further afield. Their percentage of the population has declined from 12% in 1948 (4.8 million population), to 7% in 1987 (20 million) and 6% in 2003 (27 million). Despite Assyrians making up only 3% of Iraq's population, in October 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported of the 700,000 Iraqis who took refuge in Syria between October 2003 and March 2005, 36% were "Iraqi Christians."


Lebanon has experienced a large migration of Lebanese Christians for many generations. There are more Lebanese people living outside of Lebanon (8.6[1]-14[2] million), than within (4.3 million). Most of the diaspora population is Lebanese Christians, but some are Muslim, Druze or Jewish. They trace their origin to several waves of Christian emigration, starting with the exodus that followed the 1860 Lebanon conflict in Ottoman Syria.

Under the current Lebanese nationality law, diaspora Lebanese do not have an automatic right of return to Lebanon. Varying degrees of assimilation and high degree of interethnic marriages cause most diaspora Lebanese not to have passed on Arabic to their children]], but they still maintain a Lebanese ethnic identity.

The Lebanese Civil War has further fed the higher Christian emigration rate. Higher Muslim birthrates, the presence of Palestinians in Lebanon and Syrian migrant workers have contributed to reducing the Christian proportion of the Lebanese population. Lebanese Christians still remain culturally and politically prominent, forming 35-40% of the population. Since the end of the Lebanese Civil War, Muslim emigrants have outnumbered Christians, but the latter remain somewhat over-represented compared to their proportion of the population.[3]

Palestinian Authority (West Bank and Gaza)[edit]

The immigration of Palestinian Christians started in the 19th century as a result of the Ottoman discrimination against Christians. 1948 and 1967 occupations and wars made many Christians flee or loose their homes. In the Palestinian National Authority, there has been considerable emigration and Palestinian Christians are disproportionately represented within the Palestinian diaspora. Most of Gazan Christians have fled the Gaza Strip following the Hamas takeover in 2007, largely relocating to the West Bank.


There are almost as many Syrian people living outside of Syria (15[4] million), as within (18 million). Most of the diaspora population is Syrian Christians.[citation needed] They trace their origin to several waves of Christian emigration, starting with the exodus during Ottoman Syria.

Under the current nationality law, diaspora Syrians do not have an automatic right of return to Syria.[citation needed] Varying degrees of assimilation and the high degree of interethnic marriages caused most diaspora Syrians have not passed on Arabic to their children, but they still mainta a Syrian ethnic identity.

The eruption of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 caused Christians to be targeted by militant Islamists and so they have become a major component of Syrian refugees.

In FY 2016, when the US dramatically increased the number of refugees admitted from Syria, the US let in 12,587 refugees from Syria, with 99% being Muslims (few Shia Muslims were admitted). Less than 1% were Christian, according to the Pew Research Center analysis of the State Department Refugee Processing Center data.[5]

The religious affiliation of Syria's 17.2 million people in 2016 was approximately 74% Sunni Islam, 13% Alawi, Ismaili and Shia Islam, 10% Christian and 3% Druze.[6] The population has declined by more than 6 million because of the civil war.


Originally, most emigrants from what is now Turkey were Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, including Greek refugees. Today, emigration from Turkey consists primarily of Muslims.

The percentage of Christians in Turkey fell from 19% (possible 24% because of Ottoman undercounts) in 1914 to 2.5% in 1927,[7] due to events which had a significant impact on the country's demographic structure, such as the Armenian Genocide, the massacre of 500,000 Greeks and 375,000 Assyrian Christians, population exchange between Greece and Turkey,[8] and the emigration of Christians (such as Levantines, Greeks, Armenians etc.) to foreign countries (mostly in Europe, the Americas, Lebanon and Syria) that actually began in the late 19th century and gained pace in the first quarter of the 20th century, especially during World War I and after the Turkish War of Independence.[9] Ottoman censuses undercounted the number of Christians, which was really closer to 24.5% of the population, 4.3 million not 3 million, as reported. Today, more than 160,000 people of different Christian denominations represent less than 0.2% of Turkey's population,[10] Today there are more than 200,000-320,000 people of different Christian denominations representing roughly 0,3-0.4 percent of Turkey's population.[11]

Christian emigration from South Asia[edit]


Christians have also fled from India but for their own reasons and in small few numbers, as India has been considered as one of safest place for them in South Asia. Moreover, India has been one of the favourite tourist destination of the people of United States, Europe, and South Asia.


Christians have also fled Pakistan, especially in response to the application of Islamic blasphemy laws.

Christian emigration from East Asia[edit]


Christians have also fled China, especially in response to waves of religious persecution has been a contributory factors in emigration from China since it is a communist state, and its declared state atheism.

North Korea[edit]

Christians have also fled North Korea, especially in response to waves of religious persecution has been a contributory factors in emigration from North Korea since it is a communist state, and its declared state atheism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bassil promises to ease citizenship for expatriates
  2. ^ "Country Profile: Lebanon". FCO. 3 April 2007. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2005-10-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Singh, Shubha. "Like India, Syria has a large diaspora (With stories on Syrian president's visit)". Theindian News. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  5. ^ "State Department refugee data".
  6. ^ "CIA Factbook".
  7. ^ Içduygu, Ahmet; Toktas, Şule; Ali Soner, B. (1 February 2008). "The politics of population in a nation-building process: emigration of non-Muslims from Turkey". Ethnic and Racial Studies. 31 (2): 358–389. doi:10.1080/01419870701491937.
  8. ^ Chapter The refugees question in Greece (1821-1930) in "Θέματα Νεοελληνικής Ιστορίας", ΟΕΔΒ ("Topics from Modern Greek History"). 8th edition (PDF), Nikolaos Andriotis, 2008
  9. ^ "'Editors' Introduction: Why a Special Issue?: Disappearing Christians of the Middle East" (PDF). Editors' Introduction. 2001. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Religions". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  11. ^ name="cia-rel"

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