By World Watch Monitor.
War and persecution has led to a hemorrhaging of Christians from the Middle East, particularly from Syria and Iraq. A new report highlights what the region stands to lose should Christians continue to leave.
The report, compiled by a trio of Christian charities and a university, argues that Christians are an essential part of Middle Eastern history and culture, and that they continue to contribute powerfully to society, particularly in the fields of education, medicine, science and engineering.
For Syria and Iraq to lose Christians altogether, the report says, would not only damage the fabric of the society, but negatively impact upon the two countries’ economies.
“In the Middle East, the Church is under severe pressure and Christians face increasing marginalization, though their presence in the region dates back two millennia,” it says. “Many are choosing to leave in a desire to ensure a more certain future for their families, but others remain committed to their countries and their homes. Nonetheless, Christians in Syria and Iraq continue to contribute to their societies in a variety of ways, including education, culture and arts, social affairs, politics, economics, humanitarian assistance and religious activities.”
Before 2011, Syrian Christians comprised around 8-10% of a 22 million population, notes the report, though 40-50% of those Christians have since left. Meanwhile, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003, but estimates now range from 200,000 to 500,000.
“Approximately 30-35 million Christians worldwide are members of Middle Eastern church families, but only 15 million of these reside in the Middle East,” it adds. “While there is a high level of emigration, there are also many Christians committed to staying in their countries.”