Christianity is being systematically wiped out in many part of the Middle East. In 20 countries around the world Christians face major discrimination, imprisonment and death for their faith – those are the findings of a new report launched this week by Aid to the Church in Need, at a reception in the House of Lords hosted by Lord Alton.
‘Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-15’ concludes that if the exodus of faithful from Iraq continues at existing levels, the Church could all but disappear within five years. An even faster rate of attrition is noted in Syria whose faithful have reportedly plummeted from 1.25 million in 2011 to as few as 500,000 today.
In a message read out at the launch, the Prime Minister stated: “Every day in countries across the world, Christians are systematically discriminated against, exploited and even driven from their homes because of their faith.”
Highlighting the UK Government’s commitment to promoting religious freedom, he described ACN’s work as “crucial”, adding: “This report serves as a voice for the voiceless, from their prison cells, and the places far from home where they have sought refuge.”
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, also sent a message of support for the charity’s report. She said: “Only by publishing reports such as this and identifying the extent and scale of the problem can we hope to take steps to address the persecution of minorities that sadly still exists across the world.”
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations read a message from Pope Francis in which he said: “His Holiness deeply appreciates the efforts of all involved in producing this report and in keeping before the world the plight and suffering of Christians persecuted for their faith. The Pope prays that those in positions of authority will diligently strive not only to eradicate religious discrimination and persecution in their own nations, but also to seek ever more effective ways to promote international cooperation in order to overcome these offences against human dignity and religious freedom.”
There were moving testimonies from Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart from Aleppo; Victoria Youhanna, a slight young woman from northern Nigeria, who escaped from Islamist terror group Boko Haram earlier this year; and Timothy Cho, a Christian student who experienced persecution in North Korea.
Archbishop Jeanbart gave a harrowing account of life in Syria. He pointed out that in Turkey three days of national mourning had been declared after the recent bomb attack. What should the authorities do in Syria where thousands have been killed or displaced, he asked. The Archbishop lamented the destruction of Syrian antiquities, particularly the ancient city of Palmyra. He described the 82 year-old archaeologist murdered by ISIS as a “Muslim martyr.” He praised Britain’s pluralistic society and appealed for British support. “We are facing our worst crisis in 2,000 years. We are suffering floods of blood” he said.
The report was launched in St Mary’s Cathedral Aberdeen on Thursday 15th October 2015.
Summary of the report ‘Persecuted and Forgotten?’ is attached below. Read the full report here: www.acnuk.org