Persecution in Middle East threatens to erase Christianity from the region

by Vanessa Rodriguez, |
Iraqi Catholic nun, Sister Diana Momeka, was among more than 120,000 Christians forced to flee northern Iraq last summer upon ISIS occupation of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. Countless of the refugees remain in makeshift homes in Kurdistan, awaiting the opportunity to return to their homes. | Screen shot Fox News On the Record

MIDDLE EAST (Christian Examiner) -- Targeted threats to wipe out Christianity in the Middle East are successfully eliminating the faith from its birthplace.

Islamic extremism is the main source of hostility in nations where the most severe persecution is seen, according to an annual World Watch List, released earlier this year by the non-profit organization Open Door. The list ranks the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous and difficult to be a Christian.

Specifically, attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS) and other Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Syria have resulted in "a mass exodus of Christians," Open Door revealed in the report. The organization also suggested this year's historic levels of Christian persecution are precursory to even greater oppression.

Since 2003, more than 70 percent of Christians have fled Iraq. In Syria, reportedly more than 700,000 Christians have left the country since 2011.

One non-profit founder Charles Vella, of the Cana Movement, wrote a commentary condemning the overall silence of the Western world regarding the dwindling presence of Christianity at the hands of persecution.

"Sixty years ago, 20 percent of the population in the Middle East was Christian. This has been reduced to less than five per cent, and they will rapidly vanish if nothing is done," Vella wrote.

In a first-hand report of the forced departure of more than 120,000 Christians from northern Iraq last summer Iraqi Catholic nun, Sister Diana Momeka, appeared before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee May 13 in an appeal for government help. Momeka is among the Ninevah Christians who escaped her convent in Mosul before ISIS invaded the surrounding area.

Momeka described the future of Christianity in Iraq as "grave, but not without hope" and issued a plea saying, "I call on all Americans to raise your voices on our behalf so that diplomacy and not genocide, social well-being and not weapons, and the desire for justice, not selfish interests determine the future for Iraq and all of her children."

Another Catholic group, Church in Need, also attested to the fierce suffering in the region that aims to "erase" Christianity.

Syrian refugees in Za'atari camp in Jordan. The camp currently houses more than 80,000 refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to the Syria conflict. For use with RNS-BOURKE-COLUMN, transmitted June 19, 2014. | Photo courtesy of World Vision.

"The acts of ISIS show clear intent – violent and brutal executions targeting Christians and Yazidis who represent distinct 'national, ethnic, racial and religious groups' in Iraq. The intent of ISIS goes beyond destruction; It aims to erase the past, present and future of the Christians and Yazidis," a written statement by the organization said.

Despite horrific accounts of torture, rape, murder and more, the persecution of Christians is not limited to the Middle East. Global persecution impacts roughly 100 million Christians worldwide and is quickly on the rise.

The most severe Christian persecution for more than a decade has occurred in North Korea. Other countries known to experience violent anti-Christian campaigns included China and Pakistan.

Notably, the most rapid rate of persecution last year was seen in Africa, including Somalia and Sudan. In Nigeria, Islamist militants targeted Christians and killed thousands of citizens in efforts to establish Sharia law in the nation and eliminate the presence of Western culture there.