Fr Andrzej Halemba, head of Middle East projects at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), has warned of a second genocide of Christians in the region where they could face total eradication from countries such as Iraq and Syria, where they have existed since the time of Christ. He said: “I cannot imagine the Middle East without Christians. But the threat is real. Daesh (ISIS) wanted to eradicate Christians. “The genocidal mentality is alive with Al-Nusra and other groups. “If Christians can stay together and help each other, they can stay in the Middle East. If they don’t, it can be like Turkey after the terrible genocide in 1915.”
According to ACN, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq In 2003, now there are less than 250,000, with some reports putting the number as low as 120,000. Similarly, in Syria in 2011, there were 1.5 million Christians and there are now 500,000. John Pontifex from ACN said that when he visited Syria and Iraq and spoke to families and church leaders, he got a sense of how dire the situation is. “The sense of fear and anxiety is palpable,” he said. “It’s a case of once bitten, twice shy. These families, these communities know just how desperate the situation can be if indeed these forces are let loose.
“I myself spoke to a man in Aleppo, who had luckily somehow escaped from a Daesh prison where he was being held, tied to a cross. I spoke to another man who was able to escape from being held in a Daesh prison in Aleppo. “These people know exactly what Daesh is capable of. That sense of fear is not going to go away until this caliphate mentality is removed from the consciousness of so many of those who would support Daesh and others were they to make a resurgence.” Fr Andrzej said all Christians must work together to ensure their survival in the region. “Families which pray together stay together,” he said. “We all need to work for the good of all.
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