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Christianity is in danger of ceasing to be a global faith as increasing numbers of its followers flee violence and persecution across the Middle East and Africa, new report says.
Christianity is fast disappearing from entire regions, most notably a huge chunk of the Middle East, and could vanish from Iraq within 5 years, according to a new report by Aid to the Church in Need.
“Christians are fast disappearing from entire regions, most notably a huge chunk of the Middle East but also whole dioceses in Africa. In large part, this migration is the product of an ethnic cleansing motivated by religious hatred”, says Persecuted and Forgotten? survey, released in the UK's House of Lords on Tuesday.
MILITANT ISLAMISM, THE BIGGEST THREAT
Christianity was “changing from being a global faith to a regional one, with the faithful increasingly absent from ever-widening areas”.
The report, covering the past two years, concludes that the difficulties facing Christians have worsened in 15 out of 19 countries under review. Militant Islamism is the main – and increasing – threat, but Christians have also been targeted by extremists of other faiths and totalitarian regimes such as North Korea.
The report repeats claims that Christians are being “driven out of ancient biblical heartland” of the Middle East, stating they are “on course to disappear from Iraq possibly within five years – unless emergency help is provided at an international level on a massively increased scale”.
Christians remain a significant and largely stable presence in some parts of the biblical Middle East, most notably Israel and Jordan.
In Africa, the rise of militant Islamic groups in Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania 'is clearly intended to intimidate Christians, destabilising their presence', the report says. This on a continent that the report says “has until now been the church's brightest hope for the future”.
THE MOST PERSECUTED FAITH IN THE WORLD
Groups of militant Islamic 'that have appeared out of nowhere and exercise a potency and cruelty far greater than that of the radical organisations from which they have sprung' are largely to blame for the mass exodus, says the UK-based charity.
It says that Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world, citing the Frankfurt-based International Society for Human Rights 2012 report, which estimated that 80% of all acts of religious discrimination were against Christians.
The ACN’s report says that in the past two years, the number of countries in which Christians suffered extreme persecution was 10, up from six in the period covered by its previous report. Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan and Syria joined China, Eritrea, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
In addition to militant Islamism, the report highlights that Christians also suffer when their faith is seen as a 'colonial, corrupt and exploitative' foreign import from the West, triggering suspicion from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish nationalists.
DAVID CAMERON SUPPORTS PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS
David Cameron, the UK prime minister, also spoke out against systematic discrimination against Christians in a message for the report’s launch, saying the government was committed to promoting religious freedom and tolerance in the UK and around the world.
“Now is not the time for silence. We must stand together and fight for a world where no one is persecuted because of what they believe,” the prime minister affirmed.