Christians facing extinction at hands of militants, minister warns

(AP)
Portraits of two men are on display as people pray for three Christian men killed by gunmen in the predominately Christian village of Maaloula during a service at the al-Zaytoun Roman Catholic Church, Damascus, Syria, September 14, 2013.

Violent attacks by militants are driving Christians from their historic homelands, Baroness Warsi has warned.

The minister for faith was to warn at a speech at Georgetown University, Washington, today that Christians and other religious minorities are experiencing a "global crisis" amid a rise in attacks against them. 

"A mass exodus is taking place, on a Biblical scale," she was to say.  "In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct."

Georgetown is home to some of the world's leading academics on freedom of religion or belief and the speech will follow an event on religious freedom hosted at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ahead of the speech, Ms Warsi wrote in The Telegraph: "There are parts of the world today where to be a Christian is to put your life in danger.

"From continent to continent, Christians are facing discrimination, ostracism, torture, even murder, simply for the faith they follow. Perpetrators range from states to terrorists to people's neighbour."

She continued: "Collective punishment is becoming more common, with people being attacked for the alleged crimes, connections or connotations of their coreligionists, often in response to events taking place thousands of miles away."

Although she said relationships between faiths were becoming "ever more volatile", she said she did not buy the argument that sectarianism is inevitable.

"Communities can and do co-exist," she said.

"I want try to build an international consensus, bringing together law enforcers, politicians, charities, journalists, the judiciary and more to develop a strategy for putting this vision for universal religious freedom into practice, and to start making an impact on people's everyday lives."

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