By Perry Chiaramonte, FoxNews.
The dwindling Christian population of the Middle East could vanish completely within a decade unless the global community intervenes, say alarmed aid groups who say followers of the Bible are being killed, driven from their land or forced to renounce their faith at an unprecedented pace.
The world has largely stood by as a dangerous tide of intolerance has washed over the region, according to a new study by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The study includes disturbing data about the plunging numbers of Christians in the part of the world that gave birth to the faith, and makes a dire prediction of what could happen.
“It’s an answer that depends on the response of the world,” Edward Clancy, director of outreach for the United Kingdom-based Aid to the Church in Need, told FoxNews.com. “What response is there going to be toward us if we act?”
While Christians are under siege from Islamic State radicals in war-torn Syria and Iraq, the report notes that the religion is being targeted throughout the region. Christians who have managed to escape ISIS have fled to places like Europe and Lebanon, while members of the faith also are under increasing pressure in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.
The Christian population in Iraq has plummeted from 1.5 million in 2003 to current estimates of 275,000 and could be gone for good within five years, according to the report. The dwindling numbers are due to genocide, refugees fleeing to other countries, those who are internally displaced, and others hiding in plain sight and not allowing their faith to be publicly known. A dozen Christian families flee Iraq each day, according to 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a Falls Church, Va., nonprofit dedicated to promoting religious freedom in the Middle East.