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Christianity 'set to disappear from Iraq in just five years'

Christianity 'set to disappear from Iraq in just five years'

by David Knowles
October 26, 2015

A REPORT released by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has warned that unless 'emergency help' on a 'massively increased scale' was forthcoming from around the world, native Iraqi Christianity is on the verge of extinction.

The stunning findings, in a report entitled Persecuted and Forgotten? released in Parliament earlier this week said that eighty per cent of all religious persecution was aimed at Christians.

Christian groups were subject to 'religiously motivated ethnic cleansing' in parts of Africa and the Middle East and, caught between the depredations of ISIS and 'the increasing pressures on the faithful in Saudi Arabia and Iran' the Church, especially in Iraq was being silenced and driven out of its ancient homeland.

The report added that oppression had 'prompted an exodus of Christians, notably from the Middle East and parts of Africa.'

Lord David Alton of Liverpool, the meeting chairman, described the treatment of Christians in the Middle East as 'systematic genocide'.

Christians were beset, he said, by foes who had a 'hatred of difference' whose goal was to 'destroy all history and culture which is not their own.'

Quoting the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was murdered by the Nazis in 1945, Alton called on politicians and the general public not to be 'silent witnesses of evil deeds.'

The chief editor of the report John Pontifex said that 'Christianity is the world's most persecuted religion' and that 'some form of cultural genocide is underway.'

In the Middle East, he argued, Christianity was 'threatened with wipe-out.'

Individual Christians from around the world who had experienced torture and repression were amongst those addressing the packed meeting in Parliament.

Boko Haram

Through a translator Victoria Youhanna from northern Nigeria told of her capture and escape from Boko Haram.

She described how she saw young people from her town beheaded for refusing to fight for the militant group and young boys forced into koranic inscription.

After recounting her experiences Youhanna urged the room to find a way to 'break the cycle of war and hate.'

The Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo Jean-Clement Jeanbart told of the destruction in his own country and remarked that the title of the report was appropriate given that 'we are forgotten here in Syria'.

Prime Minister

In response to testimonies Katherine Thane, Operations Director of the All-Party Group for Freedom of Religion, said: 'You have to become a bit like a doctor, a bit numb to horrific images and testimonies.

'It was very powerful, it was very moving and hearing such testimony really fires you up to do something.

'Freedom of religion or beliefs needs to be understood as a human right that is absolutely crucial to all UK foreign policy.

'We need more effective counter narratives. We've had interfaith meetings with rabbis and different Muslims groups talking about how there can be more response from diverse faiths to defeat extremist thinking.'

In a letter read out at the launch Prime Minister David Cameron said that the report was a 'voice for the voiceless' and now was 'not the time for silence on issues of Christian persecution.'

Tobias Ellwood MP and government minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office echoed the sentiments of the Prime Minister telling attendees 'The British government has not forgotten you.'

The permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva Silvano Tomasi said that 'Christians do not respond to violence with violence' and called for safe zones to be established across the Middle East.


Aid to the Church in Need argued that persecution of Christians had increased in comparison with an earlier report they released in 2013.

The 2015 report included 22 countries (three of which had not been detailed in the 2013 report) and,while in 2013 it found only six countries with an 'extreme' scale of persecution ten countries are at that level today.

According to the charity, in 2015, 15 countries had seen persecution worsen in the past few years compared to 13 in 2013.

Contemporary worldwide persecution of Christians comes in many forms. In the Middle East and Africa Islamist groups like IS and Boko Haram are responsible for the widespread destruction of churches and displacement of Christian populations.

In the Far East political authorities are unaccountable: denying Christians permits for new churches and subjecting Christians to sharia law (Indonesia), demolishing churches (China), sending believers either to prison (Vietnam) or harsh labour camps (North Korea).

Elsewhere, Christians are targeted by extremist groups of other faiths. In India Christians have been attacked by Hindu extremists, in Sri Lanka Buddhist fundamentalists have forced the closure of numerous churches and in Israel extremists of all stripes have attacked believers at holy sites.


Father Nadheer Dako from the Chaldean Catholic Mission in the UK was pessimistic about the future.

'We have been suffering for years and nobody hears.

'In the last few years in the Middle East we are facing a genocide.

'We hope that someone will hear us.

'Anything, even a little bit of hope, will be enough.'


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