THE LEVANT NEWS — By SIMON TOMLINSON FOR MAILONLINE–
Christians face being wiped out from the Middle East within ten years as increasing numbers are killed by Muslim extremists or forced to flee persecution, Catholic aid groups have warned.
The alarming rate of decline means the religion could vanish in some areas in just five years unless the world steps in, says the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
In Iraq, where Christians are being butchered in mass executions by the “Islamic State”(ISIS), their number has plunged from one million to just 275,000 in the last 12 years alone.
ISIS militants stand behind Egyptian Christians before beheading them in a horrific video released in February. Catholic aid groups warn that Christians face being wiped out from the Middle East within ten years as increasing numbers are killed by Muslim extremists or forced to flee persecution
The study says the faith is also facing increasing pressure in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Gulf nations, adding that the Church is being ‘silenced and driven out of its ancient biblical heartland’.
In a report titled Persecuted & Forgotten?, the British-based group says: ‘At a time when the numbers of displaced and refugees have hit an all-time high, Islamists groups — ISIS foremost — are carrying out religiously motivated ethnic cleaning of Christians.
‘In parts of the Middle East — particularly in Syria and Iraq — the crisis is so severe that barring significant interventions on the part of world powers, the Christian presence may disappear completely within a decade or even sooner. ‘
The picture is just as bleak in Syria, which is plagued by civil war, ISIS atrocities and separate bombing campaigns from the West and Russia.
In the last week, around 15,000 Christians have reportedly been forced from their homes north of Damascus.
The report concludes: ‘The decline of Christianity may significantly damage the prospects for peace in nations and regions where Church leaders — lay and clergy — have played important roles in promoting and providing education, community development and interfaith co-operation.’
The views were echoed by 21st Century Wilberforce, a U.S. nonprofit group dedicated to promoting religious freedom worldwide which highlights how Christians have already been purged from Iraq’s second biggest city, Mosul, by ISIS militants.
Executive vice president Elijah Brown told Fox News: ‘Last Christmas was the first time that bells did not ring out in the city of Mosul in 2,000 years.
‘I think that speaks to the reality that hundreds of thousands of Christian families are living on the edge of extinction.’