Displaced Christians in cramped living conditions in Erbil, the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
(JNS.org) The persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East is “a cause of great worry and pain,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said Tuesday upon his hosting of Israeli Christian leaders for a reception to mark the New Year.
During 2014, arguably one of the worst years in recent memory for the Middle East’s beleaguered Christian minority, hundreds of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes by the Islamic State terror group.
“Over the past months, we have been greatly concerned by the ongoing religious persecution and restrictions on freedom of worship for minorities in the Middle East,” Rivlin told the attendees, including nine heads of various churches in Israel. “Because of their faith, hundreds of thousands are being exiled, forcibly converted, attacked, and brutally murdered. … This is a cause of great worry and pain for all us.”
At the same event, Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III said that amid “persecution and war,” the world looks to “the communities of the Holy Land for renewed hope and inspiration.”
“In this region, we recognize the diversity of the peoples and understand that the harmonious coexistence of the Abrahamic faiths is essential to the integrity of the Holy Land,” he said.
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan, recently told JNS.org that the widespread displacement of Mideast Christians constitutes a “genocide.”
“It is genocide when you take over an area and strip people of their homes [and] their lives, and send them to an ambiguous future,” Warda said.
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