Lord Carey: Government and churches must do more to help Christians in Middle East

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has called on the Prime Minister to do more to help Christians facing rape, persecution and crucifixion by Daesh, or Islamic State, in the Middle East.

Lord Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of CanterburySimon P Caldwell

Lord Carey of Clifton says in a Christmas message that the Christmas story is a precious reminder of where Christianity began, in the Middle East. 

"The Gospels are full of the place names which you hear on news programmes describing modern-day violence – Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Egypt, and Damascus," he writes in Sunday Express. At least two of the "wise men" were from the Middle East, an area where the local churches have traditionally taken pride in their links with the origins of the faith.

"They were the original churches before missionaries reached northern Europe. But they were conquered in the early Middle Ages by Muhammad and his armies, and Christians and Jewish people suffered discrimination and insecurity," says Lord Carey.

The persecution by IS will wipe out Christianity in the region, he predicts. "The region will be poorer for their loss. In 1900 Christians made up 20 per cent of the population of the Middle East. Now the figure is less than 5 per cent."

In 1915 hundreds of thousands of Christians were murdered in the Armenian genocide by the Ottomans, he adds.

IS threatens to complete the process by beheadings and crucifixions.

The crisis is so serious that he says he would have expected intervention from the West's church leaders but this has failed to happen. "There has not been nearly enough pressure from the hierarchies of any of the Western churches."

"Thankfully the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope have spoken up for Christian minorities but, for the most part, the needs of Christians have been kept alive by a few brave non-governmental organisations, newspapers such as the Sunday Express and also the Prince of Wales."

And while David Cameron has met his pledge to bring to this country 1,000 Syrians from UN camps before Christmas, there is no information on whether any Christians are included.

"Surely, the most vulnerable refugees, the target group the Government is seeking to help, must include some of those who have been targeted for rape, torture, beheadings and enslavement by the jihadists? The Government policy of taking refugees from the camps misses these minorities because they are just too frightened to go into them. There is increasing evidence that Islamist groups dominate the refugee camps," warns Lord Carey.