Syrian Christians among minorities at risk of genocide

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
The 2015 People Under Threat list ranked Christians and other minorities in Syria the top groups at risk for genocide. | Screen Shot Minority Rights Group

MIDDLE EAST (Christian Examiner) -- The death of 220,000 people and the displacement of millions of others to civil conflict has caused a human rights organization to place Christians in Syria among the top minority groups at risk of genocide in the recently published 2015 People Under Threat list.

The list, compiled by the human rights organization Minority Rights Group International (MRG), ranks countries based on minority communities' risk of experiencing violence and the threat of death.

Syria ranked number one on the annual list, while other people groups in the country under the threat of ethnic cleansing and political killing included Shi'ites, Alawites, Kurds and Palestinians. MRG noted the particularly large death toll in the country and attributed it to the conflict that has now spanned five years.

An Islamic State terrorist holds a gun while standing behind what are said to be Ethiopian Christians in Wilayat Fazzan, in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website on April 19, 2015. The video purportedly made by Islamic State and posted on social media sites on Sunday appeared to show militants shooting and beheading about 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya. Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the video but the killings resemble past violence carried out by Islamic State, a terrorist group which has expanded its reach from strongholds in Iraq and Syria to conflict-ridden Libya. Libyan officials were not immediately available for comment. Ethiopia said it had not been able to verify whether the people shown in the video were its citizens. | REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV

nearly half of Syria's population forced from their homes, the crisis continues to worsen there, MRG stated in a recent press release.

"Extreme sectarianism has now infected much of the country, with nearly all the remaining Christian communities living in enclaves in government-held areas," the report stated.

As a whole, Middle Eastern countries topped the annual list due to ISIS attacks in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

"The threat to the Middle East from ISIS should not be underestimated," Mark Lattimer, MRG's executive director said.

Russia ranked 16th on the list. MRG credited the ranking to a rise in "xenophobia against migrants and regular clashes in the North Caucasus between government forces and Islamist separatists."

Notably, China climbed 15 places up the list to number 29 reportedly due to tension between the communist government and the Muslim Uighur community.

According to the report, other countries that displayed a significant rise on the list included the Ukraine, which jumped 39 places, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Also high ranking on the lister were Somalia (2nd) and Sudan (3rd). Pakistan, where reports of Christian persecution continue to rise, ranked number seven.