Christianity could be 'wiped out' in Middle East

Published 28 December 2012
AP
Persecution has led to an exodus of Christians from Iraq

Westminster think tank Civitas is warning that Christianity is in serious danger of being wiped out in its biblical heartlands.

Christians living in the region where the faith was born are coming under increasing threat from Islamic oppression, the think tank says in a new report.

Civitas says Western politicians and media are ignoring the widespread persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the wider world because they are afraid they will be accused of racism.

The report, Christianophobia, says that Christians are more likely to be the target of discrimination or persecution that any other religious group and warns that they are particularly at risk in Muslim-dominated societies.

The difficulties have been made worse by anti-Americanism and the false belief that Christianity is a "Western" creed, despite having its origins in the Middle East.

The report's author, journalist Rupert Shortt, estimates that in the last century, between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed.

Christians are particularly at risk from militant Islam in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Muslim-majority countries are generally most hostile to Christians, the report finds, and account for 12 of the 20 countries described as "unfree".

In Iraq, the Christian population has fallen from between 1.2 and 1.4 million in 1990 to around 200,000 today as a result of bombings, killings and kidnappings, especially since the 2003 invasion.

Worldwide, an estimated 200 million Christians are facing social discrimination, harassment or overt oppression for their faith.

Mr Shortt notes that more Christians are imprisoned in China than any other country in the world.

"Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood," he says.

"The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally."

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