Middle Eastern Christians are experiencing one of the most significant periods in their history, according to religious and political leaders meeting in London last week.
Regime changes in Egypt and Iran and sectarian violence in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq have presented an opportunity for the Christian minority to speak out, or for international bodies to advocate on their behalf.
Rev. Andrew White, the pastor of an Anglican church in Baghdad, spoke of the “terrible suffering” of Iraq’s Christian community. He said that in the last 10 years since Saddam Hussein was toppled, 1026 members of his congregation had been killed – 58 within one day.
White said that in the last decade, Iraq’s Christian population had shrunk from 1.5 million to around 200,000.
As Egypt adapts to its second regime change in two years, Bishop Angaelos, leader of the Coptic Church in the UK, said Egyptians are beginning to embrace their identity as Egyptians, rather than only as part of a group of distinct communities.
“It was unheard of before two years ago that Egyptian flags would be flying on the streets because people felt that they were not really part of a single nation state, so they reverted to their own religion, whether Christian or Muslim,” he said.