The Destruction of Christianity in the Middle East

It is one of those beautiful Sunday mornings England seems to do so well: sunlight streams across wet grass and the air is filled with the busy chatter of sparrows and the sweet, milky smell of the calves across the way. In hundreds of churches people will be gathering, as we ourselves will gather, to sing the praises of God, ask his intercession and celebrate his sacraments. It is a world away from the horrors of war and exile; but war and exile is precisely what many people are experiencing. There are over 50 million refugees in the world today, and yesterday their number was increased as Christians fled Mosul, Iraq, and those who could, fled northern Gaza.

I find it heartbreaking that we as a nation are standing by as the ancient heartlands of Christianity are ripped apart and destroyed. Whatever may be happening elsewhere in the world, Christians in the Middle East are disappearing fast. It will not be long before the only ones to be found in Syria and Iraq, for example, will be foreign visitors. That matters, and I, for one, am appalled that the British Foreign Office, to the best of my knowledge, has STILL said nothing — although it has said a great deal about Russia and Ukraine in the past 72 hours.

Why should we be concerned? The first reason is that we are talking about human beings who have a right to life and liberty being driven from their homes by the ISIS campaign of terror and by other militants who want to see Christianity destroyed. That is indefensible. The second reason is more complex. The destruction of Christian holy places, the desecration of ancient sites, the profanation of holy things, bites into the soul of every Christian in ways we do not always admit. We are not all spirit: we are flesh and blood, and we need signs and symbols to help us along. People come to the monastery here because they know they will find enfleshed, so to say, a way of prayer and seeking God that has centuries of lived experience behind it. The Christians of the Middle East enable us, through their very presence in the ancient holy places, to draw close to the sources of our belief and practice. They have given life to the Churches of the West, but now they themselves face death.

At the risk of repeating myself, I want to ask again a question I have often posed. If one man’s death diminishes us, how much more that of a whole people?

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4 thoughts on “The Destruction of Christianity in the Middle East”

  1. My (Benedictine, coincidentally enough) Priest has been railing about this for the last while, although his particular comment is the fact that the Western media just isn’t interested. He has friends who recently escaped from Iraq, and before they did, they experienced the horror of a 14yr old Altar boy seized during Mass, and crucified on the front door of the Church. The thing is, the media just isn’t interested – I searched and searched and searched the Internet for details, when he first highlighted this, and there’s no mention of it. But I believe Fr, and I believe his ability to know if his friends are telling the truth. And while, in Syria, when 8 men were recently crucified by ISIS, most reports insisted it was because they were rebels fighting against Assad and ISIS, there were some that say it was because of their Christian faith. (asides from anything else, crucifixion is normally a punishment reserved by ISIS et al for Christians…) Which begs the question – if it was to do with their faith, why ignore that in the reports? Why smooth over it? Why is it easier to report that people were murdered for being too moderate, than to report that they were murdered for being Christian?

    I do wonder if there is a link between the media’s reticence to address the very real, and torturous persecution that Iraqi and Syrian Christians are experience, and the Foreign Office’s silence. (A link in their attitude, I mean to say – I’m not suggesting a conspiracy theory!)

    And I entirely agree with you on why we should be concerned, and the diminishment this causes. And yet, in my little green space of Ireland, all I can do is lift my hands in prayer for all afflicted. Which somehow feels very little in the face of such evil.

  2. This is a real issue for Christians, and voices are being raised in the UK, but the government and media seem more focused on what it happening in the Ukraine and even Israel and Gaza (which is horrific in it’s own right).

    In our parish this morning, the Vicar made this the focal point for both her sermon and intercessory prayer. Persecuted Christians are dying daily and perhaps hourly in places such as Iraq, Nigeria, Darfur, Southern Sudan, the Central African Republic and no doubt other places. the media reports in genocide terms, but omits to paint in the background of the religious persecution which is driving much of what is happening, perhaps it’s too difficult for them, or, more likely, it doesn’t fit into their secular news agenda.

    Shame on them, and shame on the governments who are standing idly by and watching this as spectators. They were all too ready to go into Iraq when oil was threatened, but now, when the people are being decimated and destroyed by a monster, much worse than Sadam, we watch nervously from the wings, more in fear of public opinion and the next election than their duty to humanity.

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