Historic Christian presence in the Middle East dwindling because of conflict, persecution

July 10, 2018

Archbishop Demetrios has said: “The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians throughout the world…Our prayers and actions on behalf of the threatened, oppressed or persecuted Christians are accompanied by our safe and sure faith in our God, a God of love, justice and power who is under all circumstances present in our life.”

Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, past Federal Commissioner, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, adds: “Most policy analyses and media treatments tend to highlight the calamitous effects on Christians related to the wars in Iraq and Syria, but the decline of Mideast Christianity has a history at least as long as the establishment of states in the region….States have used discriminatory property regimes to economically strangle Christian communities.”

These efforts to destroy Christianity’s presence in the Middle East continue, and warrant our ongoing attention, prayer, and support for efforts to ameliorate the plight of our brethren in these threatened Christian communities.

“Christians in the Middle East: dwindling despite deep roots,” Agence France-Presse, July 8, 2018:

PARIS, France – Christians have been rooted in the Middle East as minority communities since the birth of the religion, but their numbers are dwindling amid conflict and jihadist attacks.

Today they make up only four percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent before the First World War, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said this month….

Here is a breakdown of the main Christian presence in the Middle East:


Coptic Orthodox is the largest Christian denomination both in the region and in Egypt, where its members make up some 10 percent of the population.

They have little representation in government though and have been targeted in anti-Christian attacks that have multiplied since the Islamic State group appeared.

Since December 2016 more than 100 people have been killed in anti-Christian attacks in Egypt claimed by ISIS.

In April 2017 Copts were targeted in bombing attacks on two churches on Palm Sunday, killing 45 people.

The following month, gunmen shot dead about 30 Christians who refused to renounce their faith.

Chaldean Christians numbered 1.5 million in Iraq before the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein but their numbers have since plummeted to less than 500,000, according to Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, appointed cardinal by the pope in June.

Many fled from the sectarian violence that followed Saddam’s ouster.

They were also pushed out of parts of northern Iraq in 2014 as ISIS jihadists seized control of vast swathes of territory.

Qaraqosh, once home to the country’s greatest concentration of Christians, was recaptured by Iraqi forces in October 2016.

Catholic and Orthodox sects comprise the majority of Christians in Syria, where they represented between five and nine percent of the population before civil unrest erupted in 2011.

According to the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, half of Syria’s 1.5 million Christians have fled the country to escape the war.

Syria’s Christians have mostly sought neutrality throughout the conflict, while fearing the rise of jihadist groups. Many backed President Bashar al-Assad for that reason.

Churches have been damaged or destroyed since 2011 and large numbers of Christians have been murdered or abducted….

Read the rest here.