Christian presence in Middle East threated with extinction

March 10, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

mid-east-persecutionMiddle East, March 6, 2015: “We are no longer welcome in our own home,” says one Iraqi Christian in a report presented in Brussels on 27 February which records the systematic killing of Christian and other religious minority groups in Iraq by Islamic State (IS) militants. The document highlights the threat under which religious minorities in the Middle East continue to live, as well as the so far unmet humanitarian needs of the tens of thousands of displaced Christians, Kaka’i, Shabak, Turkmen and Yazidis.

With the savage beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, depicted in a video released on 15 February, and the abduction of almost 300 Syrian Christians on 23 February, the fate of Christians in the Middle East has once again reached mainstream media channels.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians across Iraq and Syria have fled their homes as IS advances across the Middle East. Up to 200,000 Iraqi Christians are taking refuge in makeshift homes in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Syria, an estimated 500,000 Christians have fled to neighbouring countries, a figure that represents almost a quarter of the total Christian population before the conflict broke out in 2011. Hundreds of thousands of other Syrian Christians are internally displaced within Syria.

A few manage to emigrate to safety in the West, but church leaders across the region lament the rapidly diminishing light of Christian presence.

The report was produced by the Institute of International Law and Human Rights (IILHR), Minority Rights Group International (MRGI), No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization UNPO). It focuses on IS crimes against religious minorities in Iraq since the fall of Mosul in June 2014.

These religious and ethnic minorities include Christians, Kaka‘i (an ancient religion of the Kurdish people – also known as Yarsan), Shabak (an ethnic and cultural group who live in Iraq’s Nineveh plains and are mainly Muslims), Turkmen (an ethnic group, mainly Muslim, who originate from Turkmenistan), and Yazidis (an ancient and secretive religious minority of northern Iraq).

Speaking from NPWJ, Alison Smith said that the report “shows very clearly that ISIS has committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide against religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq”.

The warning of a potential genocide of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East comes just at the centenary of a largely forgotten genocide in which up to 3.75 million Christians (Armenians, Assyrians, and Ottoman Greeks) died in a period that stretched over just 30 years and which peaked in 1915.

– barnabas team

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