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‘Next time we will not survive’ – Middle East Christian refugee

Let us recall the words of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his greeting to the 3rd Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom, “Persecution of Christians In The Holy Lands & Middle East: Consequences and Solutions,” in December 2017:

Although we know that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian, Apologeticus, chapter 50), we also know that this seed, like the mustard seed, has now grown into a great and embracing reality (Mark 4:30-32). And this reality around the world and indeed, still in the land whence it sprang, is a safe harbor and a kind and loving neighbor to those who need or want to find shelter in its branches.

This is the reason that your conference is so vital, for we must clearly see and understand the consequences for the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and vigorously seek solutions so that these plantings of the Lord might not be uprooted and be lost to the generations yet to come.

It was to continue the work of that conference in raising awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians that this website was founded. Please pray that the ancient Orthodox Christian communities and other Christian communities of the Middle East would survive this scourge and experience a new flowering of faith.

“‘Next time we will not survive’ – Middle East Christian refugee,” World Watch Monitor, November 12, 2018:

As many as 80% of Syria’s Christians have left their country since the start of the civil war in 2011, while 50% of Iraq’s Christians have been uprooted since 2006, according to a report produced by Christian charities Open Doors International, Served and Middle East Concern last year, which said the arrival of IS was only the “tipping point” of a trend already gathering pace as Christians experienced an “overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future”.

Lebanon received the most refugees and in December 2016 the advocacy group ADF International heard some of their stories, which they have shared with World Watch Monitor. In the snippets below, the interviewees are referred to by their initials alone, to preserve their safety.

“We lived in Mosul [northern Iraq] until 2005 [when] bullets were shot into our home. Between June and July, 2005, terrorists tried to kidnap our son three times, but he was able to escape,” said S. H., a Christian father of five, adding that after this he moved with his family, including three disabled children, to Qaraqosh, 30km southeast of Mosul.

But after Islamic State arrived there on 6 August 2014, the family was forced to flee again. “They gave us three options: conversion, death or jizya [a special tax for non-Muslims],” said S. H., adding that this time they fled to Lebanon – because “it is Christian and Arab-speaking”.

Another man, a 43-year-old father of two girls, identified by his first initial, N., fled to Lebanon in February 2015 after IS gave him 24 hours written notice to leave Baghdad, his job and his home, or he and his family would be killed.

“My relatives – my cousin and his grandparents – were killed by bombings at their home, because they didn’t want to quit their job or convert. Colleagues of mine were kidnapped. Some were freed for US$16,000, others were killed. They were told they must deny Jesus or they would be killed,” he said.

It is not possible to know precisely how many people have been killed by IS but mass graves were found last week, some of which contained thousands of bodies….

A 71-year-old Catholic Christian, identified as H. S. H., recalled how he and his brother fled Aleppo, Syria on 27 December 2013, to find refuge at his farm in Raqqa, only to find themselves in further peril. “Our taxi driver was shot in the neck. My brother and I were assaulted and then locked up in the chicken stag pen, a dark room. We were locked up for three days. This was the last time I saw my brother. Our captors wanted to know if we were the owners of the farm. They stole my money. My neighbours later told me that this was IS,” he said.

“We were fed dog food, and they told me that Christians must not be alive. We were told: convert to Islam, or be killed. They told me if I converted, they would give the farm back to me. The jizya was also an option. But some of my neighbours, who were Armenian, were killed after paying jizya.”…

When IS entered the northern Iraqi town of Batnaya in August 2014, a Chaldean Christian family were unable to flee because of illness in the family. Militants came to their house repeatedly, threatening to rape and kill them if they would not convert or if they called on anyone for help, according to 63-year-old G. H. G….

Fearing for their lives, they fled to Beirut, but he said his daughter has psychological trauma and that they will never go back: “We escaped death by a miracle …  Next time we will not survive.”

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