Middle East Christians dwindle as anti-Christian hate crimes rise globally, says report

(Photo: Kim Cain)Participants from world-wide Christian organizations and churches who met in Strasbourg, France on September 9, 2014 to discuss ways for church groupings to tackle Christian persecution together at a meeting convened by the Global Christian Forum.

Anti-Christian hate crimes are escalating globally with the latest report issued by Aid to the Church in Need UK with work over the past two years showing oppression or persecution of Christians has increased in 75 percent of the countries surveyed.

The Roman Catholic Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) held its annual international Red Week campaign to draw attention to religious freedom and persecuted Christians across the world.

The report shows that Christian numbers in the Middle East have plummeted over the years as they are impacted by conflicts.

The campaign is traditionally held in November with buildings and landmarks in several different countries lit up in red, and a series of special initiatives, prayer actions and testimonies.

At around the same time the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said that successive hate crime reports indicated that graffiti and vandalism against places of worship.

These included the desecration of cemeteries and arson attacks against churches are some of the more common types of crimes motivated by bias against Christians and members of other religions said the OSCE.


Of particular concern is the plight of Christians in the Middle East where, in several countries, once flourishing communities risk disappearing as a result of mass migration due to various reasons, ranging from Islamic fundamentalism to discrimination, wars and economic woes.

According to the report, since the foundation of the State of Israel, in 1948, the number of Christians in the Palestinian territories has fallen from 18 percent to under 1 percent of the population, due to ongoing Israeli-Palestinian tensions and economic difficulties.

In the past two years over 5,000 Christians have left the territories, including Jerusalem, adding to the tens of thousands who have already left, mostly for Europe, the United States, and Canada.

Still, the Christian exodus from Syria and Iraq has been even more dramatic, especially during the Islamic State's (Daesh) insurgency in 2014-2017.

The exodus in Iraq started after the U.S.-led military intervention in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, due to insecurity and violence.

It intensified dramatically during the Daesh occupation of the Nineveh Plain, the cradle of Mesopotamian Christianity, when more than 100,000 were forced to flee their homes seeking refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan or neighbouring countries, or leaving the region forever for North America , Australia, or Europe.


The Catholic report said the emigration of Iraqi Christians continues today, despite the military defeat of Daesh, due to the economic crisis, discriminations and ongoing political instability and insecurity.

It cites the primate of the Chaldean Church, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, said this exodus is unprecedented.

On the eve of the second Gulf War, Christians in Iraq were estimated between 1 and 1.4 million.

Since then, their numbers have plunged by at least three quarters.

Syria has a similar pattern with the ongoing civil war between Bashar al-Assad's regime and insurgents and the threat of a full-scale resurgence of Daes, as well as a dramatic economic crisis are still forcing Christians to leave the country.

It is discouraging many of them from returning to their homes.

As a result, the size of the Christian community has dropped from 10 percent before 2011 to less than 2 percent, and now its very existence is in danger, according to the ACN report.

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