MIDDLE EAST – Persecution of Christians ‘coming close to genocide’ in Middle East – report

The Guardian | Patrick Wintour |May 2, 2019


Pervasive persecution of Christians, sometimes amounting to genocide, is ongoing in parts of the Middle East, and has prompted an exodus in the past two decades, according to a report commissioned by the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Millions of Christians in the region have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against, the report finds. It also highlights discrimination across south-east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and in east Asia – often driven by state authoritarianism.

“The inconvenient truth,” the report finds, is “that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians”.

Some of the report’s findings will make difficult reading for leaders across the Middle East who are accused of either tolerating or instigating persecution. The Justice and Development (AK) party of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for instance, is highlighted for denigrating Christians.

Hunt described the interim report – published on Thursday, based on a review led by the bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen – as “truly sobering”, especially since it came as “the world was seeing religious hatred laid bare in the appalling attacks at Easter on churches across Sri Lanka, and the devastating attack on two mosques in Christchurch”.

Hunt, an Anglican, has made the issue of Christian persecution one of the major themes of his foreign secretaryship. “I think we have shied away from talking about Christian persecution because we are a Christian country and we have a colonial past, so sometimes there’s a nervousness there,” he said. “But we have to recognise – and that’s what the bishop’s report points out very starkly – that Christians are the most persecuted religious group.”

He added: “What we have forgotten in this atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet. In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%.”

“We’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians. I think not just the bishop of Truro’s report but obviously what happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday has woken everyone up with an enormous shock.”

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