Report: Christianity may disappear from Syria and Iraq—a call for international intervention

October 24, 2019

The persecution of Christians in Syria and Iraq is ongoing; many Christians have left, and those who remain are in a  dire situation. The ISIS caliphate has been destroyed, but ISIS remains a presence in the region, and Shia militias also make life difficult for Christians. International action is urgently needed.

In the words of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the 3rd Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom in Washington, DC in December 2017: “All Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East are facing dire consequences due to the constant upheavals and disastrous war-making that have afflicted the region for a season of intolerable length….In trust we turn to the almighty and merciful God in a prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East in general. We especially pray for the Churches in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which have suffered most grievously due to recent events. We encourage all parties regardless of their religious convictions to continue to work for reconciliation and for the just recognition of peoples’ rights. We are persuaded that it is not arms, but dialogue, pardon and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace. Our appeal continues to this day, more urgent than ever.”

As the foreign affairs secretary of the Philippines said recently, “The next Holocaust will be of Christians.” Hungary’s foreign minister noted that “in global politics, the fact that Christians are persecuted is being ignored.”

The persecution of Christians in Syria and Iraq has been covered extensively at this site. For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Iraq, click here. For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Syria, see here.

“Report: Christianity may disappear from Syria and Iraq—a call for international intervention,” ACN, October 23, 2019:

THE CHRISTIAN EXODUS from parts of the Middle East has reached alarming proportions. It can only be stopped if the international community acts now. That is the conclusion of a new report on Christian persecution published Oct. 23 by Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity.

The 2019 edition of “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, a biennial study of the persecution of Christians around the world, warns that Christianity is disappearing from towns and cities in the faith’s ancient homeland. Despite the defeat of ISIS, the impact of genocide has led to the hemorrhaging of great numbers of Christians from the region, says the report.

There were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003, but by mid-2019 that figure had fallen to well below 150,000; by some estimates the number of Christians there may have fallen as low as 120,000—a decline of more than 90 percent within a single generation. In Syria, the size of the Christian population has fallen by two-thirds since the country’s civil war began in 2011, when Christians still numbered more than 2 million.

The report, which covers the period 2017-2019, notes that the international community has shown unprecedented concern about the persecution of the region’s Christians. But the report charges that “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.”

“Persecuted & Forgotten?” warns that the Church in the region could vanish if radical Islamists were to mount another attack on vulnerable communities—a threat highlighted by reports of jihadists escaping prison, as a result of renewed violence in northeastern Syria. The report concludes: “Were there to be another ISIS-style assault on the faithful, it could result in the Church’s disappearance.” However, says the report, “if security can be guaranteed,” there is every indication that Christianity could survive on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains and in Erbil, Kurdish Iraq.

The report finds that “an increasing unity of purpose between religio-nationalist groups and governments represents a growing—and largely unrecognized—threat to Christians and other minorities in India, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar) and other core countries in South and East Asia,” where the persecution has worsened the most. In 2017, 477 anti-Christian incidents were reported in India. More than 300 people died—and more than 500 were injured—in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019, when jihadists bombed three churches and three hotels.

In a number of African countries Christians are threatened by Islamists seeking to eliminate the Church—either by use of force or by dishonest means, including bribing Christians to convert to Islam…..