Aid specialist warns that Christians in Iraq and Syria face new risk of genocide
CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST are at direct risk of a second genocide which threatens them with complete annihilation from the lands of the Bible, according to an expert who has co-coordinated emergency relief for persecuted Christian communities there for nearly a decade.
Father Andrzej Halemba, head of Middle East projects at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said that Christians could face total eradication from countries such as Iraq and Syria where faithful have had a presence since the time of the first apostles.
Father Halemba said: “I cannot imagine the Middle East without Christians. But the threat is real. ISIS wanted to eradicate Christians. That genocidal mentality is alive with Al-Nusra and other groups.
“If Christians can stay together and help each other they can stay in the Middle East. If they don’t, it can be like Turkey after the terrible genocide in 1915.”
Father Halemba said Christianity’s eradication would greatly diminish religious plurality point in the reason and mean the loss of Christians’ role as bridge builders in conflict zones.
He said: “Christians are the soul of the country and they play a very important role in Middle Eastern societies. They are the peacemakers. Christians work for peace and peaceful co-existence and collaboration for the good of the country.”
In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, now there are fewer than 250,000—with some reports putting the number as low as 120,000. Similarly, in Syria in 2011, there still were 1.5 million Christians and that total now stands 500,000.
The priest said all Christians must work together to ensure their survival in the region.
He added: “Families that pray together stay together. We all need to work for the good of all. ACN helps all Christians – not only the Catholics. Christians should stay together and this is the desire of Jesus Christ. He wanted unity among His followers.”
Since 2011, the start of the Syrian civil war, In Iraq and Syria, ACN has supported hundreds of different projects in Syria and Iraq. These projects benefitted Christians who wanted to stay in their homelands with food baskets, water in Aleppo, milk for children, education grants, reconstruction of houses and churches, and much more.
This year ACN financed 147 projects in Syria. In 2018, the organization supported 40 projects in Iraq.
Father Halemba said: “ACN is always trying to help Christians and others in need with both hands. In one hand we have bread to feed the people, and in the other hand we have the Bible. We provide material help and spiritual help in the form of the Word of God.”