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It hasn’t come up in the debates. The candidates haven’t mentioned it on the stump. And now, less than a month to go before the election, the candidates and the press are talking about sex and emails instead of things like this:
The Christian communities of Syria and Iraq are in the middle of a “cataclysmic crisis,” a report warns today. Their very existence is in peril as the world stands witness to one of the greatest threats to the Christian Church in the Middle East since its birth over 2,000 years ago. Christians are facing targeted persecution and leaving Syria and Iraq at an increasing rate, the report says. If this rate of emigration continues, within a few years the Christian communities in these countries will be utterly devastated. It is both unthinkable and unacceptable for a fellow human being, particularly a fellow-Christian, to walk by on the other side, says the charity Open Doors in its report, Hope For The Middle East: The impact and significance of the Christian presence in Syria and Iraq — past, present and future. The report, written by Open Doors working with Middle East Concern and the University of East London, warns that war in Syria and Iraq has “unleashed a tidal wave of violent persecution”. This has targeted the highly vulnerable Christian population and has dramatically accelerated the flight of Christians from Iraq and Syria. Before 2011, Syrian Christians numbered about eight per cent of the population of 22 million. Today about half are believed to have left the country. Before 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians in Iraq — less than five per cent of the population. Today, estimates hover between 200,000 and 250,000. As many as eight in 10 Christians are now thought to have left, many with no hope or expectation of return. Many are classed as internally displaced and have sought refuge in other parts of Iraq or Syria. Other have fled to countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and beyond, their homes, properties and businesses confiscated or destroyed. Despite the crisis the Christians are facing, Christian Today reported last week that just 51 Christians from Syria have relocated to the UK under the Government’s vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. However, Christians make up a disproportionate number of Iraqi refugees. There were more than a quarter of a million registered Iraqi refugees in Syria during 2004-2010. Of these, 44 per cent were Christian.
Wondering what you can do to support our brothers and sisters in the Middle East? Here.
Meantime, the video below, released this week, tells part of the story, through the Franciscans in Syria. As the news release accompanying this puts it:
Despite the increasing violence in Syria, the Franciscan friars refuse to abandon the Christians in Syria. Instead, they continue to provide spiritual and humanitarian aid and hope in the midst of intense suffering and danger. Now, a new video, “Hope for Syria,” and the social media hashtag, #SyriaFriars, are bringing attention to their plight and the need for prayers and support. Released on YouTube and myfranciscan.org/Syria, the video tells the story of the friars who have served inside Syria’s borders for 800 years armed only with their faith and familiar brown habits.