Organized persecution of minority Christians in their traditional Middle East homelands is approaching genocide and has driven an exodus in the past two decades, a report commissioned by the British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, warned Thursday.
Millions of Christians in the region have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against, the report compiled by the Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Philip Mounstephen, found.
It also uncovered “shocking” evidence that the persecution is worse today than ever with widespread discrimination across south-east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and in east Asia – often driven by state authoritarianism and intolerance of religious diversity.
Its findings come after 359 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in attacks at hotels and churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
“The inconvenient truth,” the report finds, is “that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians”.
Honoured to lead on this… https://t.co/9ID7U1wNZZ
— Philip Mounstephen (@pmounstephen) May 3, 2019
Last week it was revealed that the fall in numbers has picked up after the Islamic State, which waged a genocidal campaign against Christians, lost its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, as Breitbart News reported.
“Unfortunately, it can be stated that the Islamic State group’s anti-Christian campaign was very successful in Iraq, and to a certain extent, successful in Syria,” John Hajjar, the co-chair of the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD) and co-director of the Middle East Christian Committee (MECHRIC), told Breitbart News.
“I think we have no more hope,” Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the diocesan legate in America’s capital and ecumenical director for the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church of America, also told Breitbart News, referring to the future of Christianity in its Middle East cradle. “Middle East Christians have no nation that protects them openly.”
“Middle East Christians have no nation that protects them openly.” https://t.co/CRKp267kXb
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) April 29, 2019
The new report confirms those claims. It was made public as “the world was seeing religious hatred laid bare in the appalling attacks at Easter on churches across Sri Lanka, and the devastating attack on two mosques in Christchurch”.
Mr. Hunt, an Anglican, has made the issue of Christian persecution one of the major themes of his foreign secretaryship. He said:
I think we have shied away from talking about Christian persecution because we are a Christian country and we have a colonial past, so sometimes there’s a nervousness there. But we have to recognise – and that’s what the bishop’s report points out very starkly – that Christians are the most persecuted religious group.
He added: “What we have forgotten in this atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet. In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%.”
The report shows 100 years ago Christians comprised 20 percent of the population in the Middle East and north Africa, but since then the proportion has fallen to less than 4 percent, or roughly 15 million people.
In the Middle East and north Africa, the report says, “forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century.”
It highlights countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia which have worked to make life close to impossible for devout Christians and other minorities. The report goes on to add:
In Saudi Arabia there are strict limitations on all forms of expression of Christianity including public acts of worship. There have been regular crackdowns on private Christian services. The Arab-Israeli conflict has caused the majority of Palestinian Christians to leave their homeland. The population of Palestinian Christians has dropped from 15% to 2%.
Bishop Mounstephen said the study found Christians are “harassed” in more countries than any other religious group, and especially in predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa. His report found 245 million Christians now suffer “high levels of persecution” in 50 countries, a rise of 30 million year on year.
In particular, they have been attacked by extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-eastern Nigeria and the Philippines, as well as in India and China. He added that the Middle East is witnessing the “decimation of some of the faith group’s oldest and most enduring communities” and called for “urgent government support”.
You can read the full interim report here.