The probabilities of Christianity persevering in the Middle East is grim as they're being driven out of Iraq, Syria and Egypt at an alarming rate. Jihadists and extremists are working to erase traces of believers and the dwindling numbers are backing their success for now. Christians make up 3 percent of Iraq's 26 million people. The major Christian groups include Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians. "Those who think of Christianity as a religion of the powerful need to see that in many places it's a religion of the powerless. And the powerless deserve to be protected," Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project shared with Foxnews.com.
Christians can trace their history over 2,000 years back to the apostles. As Christianity grew people coexisted for years with other religions. About 4.5 million Christians lived in Iraq, according to International Christian Concern, and it dropped to 1.5 million in 2003. Today, it has fallen to less than 200,000. Many are predicting this is the end of Christians in the Middle East. "I don't see a future for Christians in Mosul," Father Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East shared with CNS. Youkhana also has a program for displaced Iraqis in the surrounding areas of Dohuk. Since the Islamic State took the city in 2014, many people fled for their lives. "Christians aren't going to come back to stay. The churches I saw were not destroyed by bombs but by the everyday business operations of the community. How can Christians return to that environment?"
People feel lost and are looking to start life again, but the question is how can they? The government is not helping, only the non-profits and churches are hearing their groans and supplications. In Bartella, ISIS tore apart the community. Bernan Petros and his family departed leaving all their possessions behind. He said there is no hope in this country. "We have no hope here. We are so tired of this situation, and now we are thinking of leaving--all Christians together, to seek another place in Europe. Without my money, how can I make plans? Everything I had is under the control of ISIS," Petros shared with the local media. When Christians are killed for being Christians, officials look the other way. People have no choice but to escape.
According to published reports many Christian homes in Isil-controlled areas were "Marked with the Arabic letter Nun to brand them as Nazarenes: people who followed that man from Nazareth who they called the son of God," the telegraph.co.uk reported. Soon believers started to exit Iraq and flooded Lebanon, Jordon and Europe. But life in refugee camps is not exemplary. They are known to suffer from severe poverty and experience prejudice, strife and sickness. Christians are condemned and labeled as the "Internally Displaced People." Andreas Knapp is a Catholic priest who works with migrant youths in these settings. In his book: The Last Christians, he described the plight of displaced children. He shared with German radio broadcaster Deutschlandradio Kultur how many of the Christian refugee children were being abused by Muslim children. "There were a lot of children who were all Muslims, and I was the only Christian. When I would go to them and say, 'Let's play football', they said, 'No, you're a Christian!' Then they insulted me because I eat pork," the boy said. Knapp recounted the atrocities of infants being burned alive and kidnapped girls sold as slaves. He met one boy named Gabriel who lived in a refugee camp and said: "We are from Iraq, from Mosul. Please help us!"
Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna was abducted in 2006 and held a prisoner for 28 days by a militant group associated with al-Qaeda. He now works with Christian refugees as well. We need to let our brothers and sisters in Christ know we stand with them. Christians have long sought to live in peace within the greater community. They worked through the centuries by "Actively participated in the building of the nation and in the restoration of its' culture, proving themselves true citizens, without ever lending their support to an ethnic or religious utopia," he wrote. Today, they're being targeted and persecuted. Of course, they're not alone.
The Watch List examines the persecution faced by Christians. North Korea tops the list, followed by Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and Iraq. They reported 3 major trends impacting the World Watch list in 2017. The first was nationalism arising in Asia. The Islamic radicalization in sub-Saharan Africa is fast becoming more mainstream and although the Islamic State is under attack, its influence has expanded. The group has shared technical proficiency and financial comfort with terror networks throughout Asia and Africa. Saudi Arabia promoted networks of extremist schools in Kenya, Niger and Burkina Faso. Then there is the Middle East where Christians are caught between Sunni and Shia extremists.
With such horrible news, there is optimism. There are reports of Muslims converting to Christianity. Voice of the Martyrs Canada said millions of Muslims are fleeing the war-torn Middle East due to violence they've seen and are turning to Jesus. "Some of our Middle Eastern broadcasters have shared testimonies about many turning to Christ with us, which they hear directly from listeners when visiting there," Voice of the Martyrs Canada summarized. Jesus said we will have tribulation, but to be of good cheer, because He overcame evil. Ask God to release His armies over the Middle East and fast for those in chains and who are fighting to survive. If Middle East Christians don't endure, what will happen to the rest of Christ's followers? Traditionally congenial places for believers are now hostile areas and the American government and world leaders need to leverage diplomatic pressure to combat human right violations.