Pope Francis laments the disappearance of Christians from the Middle East — that is, everywhere but Israel, the only safe haven in the region.
Pope Francis lamented the fact that Christians are being “driven from the Middle East,” in a message he sent to Iraqi Christians forced to flee from the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) Muslim terrorists, AFP reports.
“It would seem that they (ISIS) do not want there to be any Christians, but you bear witness to Christ,” he said in a video address to be broadcast Saturday during a visit by French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin to the Iraqi city of Erbil.
“I think of the wounds, of the pain of women with their children, the elderly and the displaced, the wounds of those who are victims of every type of violence,” Francis said according to a transcript of the message published by AFP.
“Due to an extremist and fundamentalist group, entire communities, especially, but not only, Christians and Yazidi, have suffered and continue to suffer, inhuman violence because of their religious and ethnic identity,” the Pope added. “Christians and Yazidi have been forced out of their homes; they have had to abandon everything to save their lives, but they have not denied their faith.”
“Even holy buildings, monuments, religious symbols and cultural heritage have been affected by the violence, almost as if to cancel every trace, every memory of the other.”
Thousands of Christians took refuge in Erbil after ISIS forces overran the oil city of Mosul in June, Iraq’s second city, and forced hundreds of thousands of them, as well as members of the Yazidi community, to flee their homes.
After his visit to Turkey last week, the Pope urged Muslim leaders worldwide to “clearly” condemn terrorism carried out in the name of Islam, and called for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, AFP reports.
Christians – A Diminishing Minority in the Middle East
However, Francis’ plea is falling on deaf ears.
A study from 2012 warns that Christianity is at risk of being wiped out in the biblical heartlands of the Middle East. According to the study, 10% of Christians worldwide, approximately 200 million, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
The study shows that somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of Christians have left the Middle East or have been killed over the past century. In the early 1900s, Christians made up 20% of the Middle East’s population while, today, Christians make up no more than 5% of the population.
Israel – Only Safe Haven for Christians in
the Middle East
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth and a citizen of the State of Israel, told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during September that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christian minorities are safe.
“Across the Middle East, in the last 10 years, 100,000 Christians have been murdered each year. That means that every five minutes a Christian is killed because of his faith,” Nadaf asserted.
“In the Middle East today, there is one country where Christianity is not only not persecuted, but affectionately granted freedom of expression, freedom of worship and security,” Nadaf declared. “It is Israel, the Jewish State. Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe.”
How You Can Help Israel, the Christians and Jerusalem
Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty, is one of the few cities in the Middle East where Christians can practice their religion freely.
Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem, its capital, has come under heavy attack in the past weeks. We need to stand together and show the world that Jerusalem is not a bargaining chip in border negotiations or a rallying point for terrorists. It is a Holy City meant to provide a beacon of light to all nations, under the sovereignty of Israel. Help us ensure that Jerusalem stays unified. Click HERE to sign The Jerusalem Declaration.
Author: United with Israel Staff