Former Archbishop of Canterbury the Rev Dr George Carey has expressed his concerns over the plight of the Christian community in the Middle East and he has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to help them.
Dr Carey said after a year in which Christian communities of the Middle East have been subjected to persecution and crucifixion by Islamic terrorists, the Christmas story is a precious reminder of Middle-Eastern origins of the Christian faith.
“The Gospels are full of the place names which you hear on television news programmes describing modern-day violence – Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Egypt, and Damascus.
“In Christian tradition at least two of the three Wise Men came from the Middle East – from Iran and Iraq. Later, the Apostles spread the message of Jesus and the first Christian communities were established in the Middle East,” said Dr Carey in a pre-Christmas message.
“The Christians of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, though small in number, have taken pride in their historic precedence in worldwide Christianity. They were the original churches before missionaries reached northern Europe. But they were conquered in the early Middle Ages by Muhammad and his Muslim armies, and Christians and Jewish people suffered discrimination and insecurity.
“There are signs that this is the decade in which Christianity will be finally wiped out by emigration driven by persecution. The region will be poorer for their loss,” said Dr Carey stating that in 1900 Christians were 20 per cent of the Middle East population.
“Now the figure is less than five per cent. In 1915 hundreds of thousands of Christians were murdered in the Armenian genocide by the Ottomans.
“This year the IS terror group has set about completing this genocide with murders of Christians by beheading and crucifixion. So serious is the problem that you might expect the nations of the West would come to the rescue of these historic Christian communities, or that the Church would be demanding the world act now. Far from it. There has not been nearly enough pressure from hierarchies of any of the Western churches.”
“Thankfully, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Pope have spoken up for Christian minorities. But Western churches are depressingly timid in their support for Christians in the Middle East.”
“Around 600,000 Christians have fled their homes so far. They are a particularly vulnerable minority in the Middle East and have no safe havens. Prime Minister David Cameron has met his pledge to bring 1,000 Syrians from the United Nations camps before Christmas, but in spite of repeated inquiries there is no information on whether any of these refugees include Christians or other oppressed minorities.”
“Surely, the most vulnerable refugees, the target group the Government is seeking to help, must include some of those targeted for torture, beheadings and enslavement by jihadists,” said the evangelical Dr Carey.