August 30, 2013

Letters to the editor: Christians struggling all over Mideast

It isn't often I find myself nodding my head with agreement while reading M.D. Harmon's weekly column ("Christian groups under siege amid unrest in Egypt," Aug. 23), but he did a solid job of summing up the misery the Christian community of Egypt is currently enduring as that nation descends further into bedlam.

click image to enlarge

A man walks in the ruins of the Evangelical Church of Malawi, in Malawi, Egypt, on Aug. 17 after it was looted and burned by a mob.

2013 File Photo/The Associated Press

I only wish Mr. Harmon had widened his scope a bit further to tell the story of the struggling Christian community in other parts of the Middle East.

Before the 2003 U.S. invasion, the Iraqi Christian community enjoyed relative peace and prosperity alongside its Muslim neighbors. Monumental bungling and a lack of post-war planning from the Bush administration ended that.

As Iraq disintegrated into vicious civil war, Iraq's Christians were left at the mercy of terrorists and criminals targeting them for extortion, kidnapping and murder.

Today, Iraq's Christians, a community that has existed for as long as the church itself, teeter on the verge of outright extinction, with most fleeing abroad, many to Syria.

Speaking of Syria, while many in the U.S., including many conservatives, are rah-rahing regime change in Damascus, it remains to be seen what a rebel victory would mean for Syria's Christian minority. Given the alliances between the rebels and al-Qaida, a rebel victory could mean disaster.

Of course Mr. Harmon failed to mention the struggles of Palestinian Christians who live throughout the West Bank and Gaza and endure the same miseries all Palestinians do at the hands of Israeli military occupation and continued settlement expansion. A vibrant, vital, Palestinian Christian community exists, and yes, they are suffering daily.

I thank Mr. Harmon for telling part of the story of the Christians of the Middle East. Maybe next time he can tell the whole story.

Jeremy Smith

Old Orchard Beach

Let businesses lead debate about local revenue options

Most economic and public policy experts recognize the need to reform our federal income tax structure. Nevertheless, there is a looming revenue crisis closer to home that demands our attention.

Does anyone believe the current method of raising municipal and school revenues is fair? There has to be a more acceptable way to raise local revenues than to rely almost exclusively on local property taxes. I suspect this policy is the remnant of Colonial times when wealth was determined by land ownership. 

For our quality of life to be sustained, for businesses to succeed, we need public investment. Whether that be for infrastructure, public safety or public education, all are vitally important.

At this critical time, we have neighbors opposing each other over local municipal and school expenditures. As property values and taxes continue to rise, the debate gets extremely heated. In many cases, misinformation and/or inaccurate statements become readily accepted. 

Unless there is an alternative method of raising local revenue, the acrimony within communities will grow. The process creates a lack of trust of public officials, elected or otherwise. This level of discourse among the voters will only get worse unless this issue is resolved.

This is an issue that has to percolate from constituents to our elected state officials. Therefore, I call on the business community to initiate a comprehensive discussion and debate on an alternative revenue source for local communities.

Why the business community? It wields tremendous influence. The business community -- owners, officers and employees -- has the most to gain: better infrastructure to communicate and/or deliver their goods and/or services, a better-educated and skilled workforce and more attractive communities to enhance their recruiting efforts. Start the discussion now!

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