Mid­dle Eastern Chris­tians fac­ing ‘tragedy’: Church

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL - JERUSALEM:

A lead­ing church fig­ure in the Mid­dle East said yes­ter­day Chris­tians across the re­gion were fac­ing a “tragedy,” and ac­cused the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity of fail­ing to act. “The sit­u­a­tion of Chris­tians, es­pe­cially in Syria and Iraq, is a tragedy,” said Arch­bishop Pier­bat­tista Piz­z­a­balla, apos­tolic ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Latin Pa­tri­arch of Jerusalem, in a press con­fer­ence ahead of the Christ­mas hol­i­days.

The Latin Pa­tri­ar­chate of Jerusalem heads the Ro­man Catholic Church in the Holy Land. He said up to two-thirds of Chris­tians have left in those two coun­tries, cit­ing in par­tic­u­lar Aleppo-the pre­vi­ously mixed city in north­ern Syria which has been dev­as­tated by more than five years of civil war. “In Aleppo, be­fore the war there were 300,000 (Chris­tians),” he said. “Now it is about 50,000 max­i­mum.”

He ac­cused world gov­ern­ments of fail­ing to act to help sta­bi­lize the re­gion, in­stead re­sort­ing to “slo­gans.”“The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity now limit them­selves to slo­gans and some eco­nom­i­cal sup­port. Noth­ing more than that-it is very weak.” While he said at­tacks on Chris­tians killed specif­i­cally due to their re­li­gion were rel­a­tively rare, there have been ex­am­ples of per­se­cu­tion by the Is­lamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Ear­lier this month 23 peo­ple were killed in a bomb­ing at a Cop­tic Chris­tian church in Egypt, while in Septem­ber a prom­i­nent Chris­tian writer was shot dead in Jor­dan. As a re­gion, the Mid­dle East has the high­est lev­els of re­li­gious hos­til­i­ties in the world, ac­cord­ing to re­search this year by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter. Chris­tians were ha­rassed in 16 out of 20 coun­tries in the re­gion, Pew found. In Is­rael, Piz­z­a­balla said he was op­posed to a gov­ern­ment-backed plan to force mosques to qui­eten their calls to prayer which is cur­rently go­ing through the Is­raeli par­lia­ment. “I think it is a dan­ger­ous prece­dent,” he said. “I wish this bill won’t pro­ceed. There are other ways to solve the prob­lem of acous­tic pol­lu­tion,” he said. —AFP

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