International community must 'act now' to stop Christianity disappearing from the Middle East

A damaged statue of Jesus Christ is seen inside a church in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 11, 2017.REUTERS/Marko Djurica

There is not much time left to save Christianity in the Middle East following years of intense persecution, Aid to the Church in Need has warned. 

Launching a new report into the plight of Christians in the region this week, the organisation warned that Christianity was "vanishing" from towns and cities despite the defeat of ISIS, also known as Daesh. 

It said that the region was continuing to haemorrhage Christians as a result of genocide, with numbers falling dramatically from 1.5 million in Iraq before 2003 to below 150,000 in 2019 - a 90 per cent decline within the space of one generation. 

The situation is similar in Syria, where years of civil war have depleated numbers of Christians by around two thirds since the conflict began in 2011, the Catholic charity warned. 

The report, called 'Persecuted and Forgotten?', notes that while the international community has shown concern about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, it has not provided the necessary aid to ensure their survival. 

"Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway," the report reads. 

If radical Islamists launch another assault on Christians, it could finish off the Church for good, the report warns elsewhere.

This concern has only been aggravated by the threat of jihadists escaping from prison as a result of Turkey's military incursions in north-eastern Syria. 

"Were there to be another Daesh-style assault on the faithful, it could result in the Church's disappearance," the report reads.

"However, if security can be guaranteed there is every indication that Christianity could survive in Nineveh and Erbil."

The report also details the worsening plight of Christians in most of South and East Asia, with 477 incidents against Christians being recorded in India last year. 

Sri Lanka is another country of concern, after jihadists bombed churches on Easter Sunday this year, killing 300 people and injuring another 500, while in Africa, ACN warns of a "reign of terror" by militants against Christians as well as Muslims, with 3,731 Christians reportedly killed last year. 

In Sudan's Nuba Mountains, in the north-east of the African continent, the authorities burnt down 32 churches within a 12-month period, the charity said.