For the few Christians who still inhabit the Holy Land, there was no “peace on earth” this Christmas and their New Year is more likely fraught with peril than with joy.
In an eye-opening article appearing on the Guardian Liberty Voice, journalist Kate Henderson details the plight of Christians who are being slowly driven out of the birthplace of Christianity.
“There are 14 million Christians throughout the Holy Land but they are a rapidly dwindling minority. Many of them are so desperately vulnerable that they feel they have no choice now but to emigrate,” Henderson writes.
For instance, two-thirds of the Christians who once lived in Iraq fled the country after the fall of Saddam, with most of them fleeing to the now war-torn Syria where they will soon be facing yet another displacement.
“There have been reports of rape, murder and attacks directed at them and the Christian community lives in terror,” Henderson writes.
Open Doors, an international organization that seeks to empower persecuted Christians, told Fox News that the persecution in Iraq is so intense that Christians won’t even put up a Christmas tree or other decorations for fear of reprisal. They estimate that Christians are attacked every two to three days in that country.
Those who are fleeing Syria are heading for Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Not even Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ is safe. Fifty years ago, 70 percent of the population was Christian – today it is less than 15.
Fleeing Christians can no longer count on a safe haven in Egypt either. Since the fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the Coptic Christian population in that nation has been the victim of church burnings, riots and murder.
The lives of Christians living in Gaza and on the West Bank are also surrounded by uncertainty and lives tormented by persecution, beatings, and their women being forced to marry Muslims.
“It’s my prediction that if the remaining Christians in the West Bank and Gaza — Gaza only has maybe a thousand, two thousand Christians,” human rights lawyer Justus Weiner told CBN News. “If their needs are not addressed in 10 or 15 or at most 20 years, there won’t be any Christians in the cradle of Christianity. This will be a kind of memorial, a museum.”
The situation has become so dire that the Vatican is now confirming that an estimated 100,000 Christians are being killed every year for their beliefs.
HRH Prince Charles tried to bring this crisis to the attention of the world on December 17 when he addressed it in comments made at an inter-faith reception in London.
“I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by the Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East,” he said. “It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants. Christianity was literally born in the Middle East, and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ.”
He went on to call upon Christians, Muslims and Jews to focus on what binds them together rather than what tears them apart.
“Surely there is no better time to do so than at Christmas,” Prince Charles said, “to remind all of us that the emphasis of the love of neighbor” and the Golden Rule “are the ultimate foundations of truth, justice, compassion and human rights. Such profound wisdom is at the heart of all three religions, however obscured the message has become,” he added.
Prince Ghazi of Jordan shares Prince Charles’ concern for the plight of Christians in the Middle East and has reminded his people that Christians were in the Middle East 600 years before Muslims.
“Arabs were perhaps the first non-Hebrew Christians in the world and became Christians during Jesus Christ’s own lifetime,” he said.
Pope Francis has also weighed in on the subject recently. In a tweet under his Twitter handle of @Pontifex he wrote, “We cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East without Christians. Let us pray every day for peace.”
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