Middle East Christians are at direct risk of a second genocide which threatens them with wipe-out from the lands of the Bible – according to an expert in the region who has co-ordinated emergency relief 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 they have existed since the time of Christ’s first apostles.
Father Halemba said: “I cannot imagine the Middle East without Christians. But the threat is real. Daesh (ISIS) wanted to eradicate Christians. The 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 be tragic from a religious plurality point of view and because 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 less than 250,000 – with some reports putting the number as low as 120,000. Similarly, in Syria in 2011, there were 1.5 million Christians and there are now 500,000.
Fr Halemba said all Christians must work together to ensure their survival in the region. He said: “Families which 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 supporters.”
In Iraq and Syria, ACN has supported hundreds of different projects, helping 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 the charity has approved 147 projects in Syria. In 2018 ACN 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.”