Christians between exodus and hope
Dramatic situation in the Middle East and in the Muslim (Press Release)
A few days before Christmas, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warns about a possible mass exodus of Christians from the Middle East and other Muslim states. The number of Christians in Iraq and Yemen has already fallen dramatically, the human rights organization reported. “There are only a few states in which there are there signs of hope that the Christians will be granted more religious freedom – such as in Morocco, where the Christians, the Jews, Sufis, and Bahai’i are cooperating to publicly demand their rights,” explained Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Wednesday. “Freedom of religion is a significant human right, and all states are obliged to grant this right without reservations. Interreligious dialogue is helpful. However, there is no guarantee that the authorities in Muslim-dominated states will not give in to pressure by the radical Islamists and, in consequence, keep Christians from practicing their religion.”
The situation of the Christian population in Iraq is of special concern. According to local observers, the number of members of the religious minority in areas under the rule of the central government in Baghdad has fallen from 275,000 to 150,000 since 2015. Today, most of these Christians are living in Iraqi Kurdistan in the north of the country. As in many states in the Middle East, Christians in Iraq are also suffering from the worldwide conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. In particular, they fear further attacks by Shiite militias, which had increased significantly following the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan in autumn 2017.
Christians are also under massive pressure in Yemen, where the conflict has been going on for many years. Due to bombings, flight, the civil war, and the rise of Islamist ideologies, their number has fallen from 40,000 in 2011 to around 3,000 today.
“In Pakistan, sad to say, we are observing an alarming exodus of the Christian population as well. Thousands of them are trying to find shelter overseas to avoid the growing threats by Islamists. We note with great concern that the Pakistani authorities are giving in to the growing power of the Islamists – so they often deny Christians the necessary protection,” said Delius.
“We are glad about the protests of the Christians in Morocco who no longer want to celebrate Christmas in secret,” said Delius. On the occasion of Human Rights Day in December, the Christian population had sent a letter to the presidents of the two chambers of parliament, asking them to advocate for the minority’s right to freedom of religion. Most of the claims are brought forward by the about 6,000 converts living in the kingdom today. All in all, around one percent of Morocco’s 35 million inhabitants are Christians. Most of them are Catholics, and most of them are from other regions of Africa.
Header Photo: theihno via Flickr