Father Andrzej Halemba an expert in the region who has co-ordinated emergency relief there for nearly a decade.(Photo: Aid to the Church in Need)

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity supporting persecuted Christians around the world, has warned of a “second genocide” in the Middle East. 

The charity said that the region’s Christian community is at risk of a “wipe-out from the lands of the Bible” because of the persistent threat from extremist groups. 

Although ISIS has been pushed back in the region, Father Andrzej Halemba, head of Middle East projects at ACN, warned that other groups still active in the area share their aims to “eradicate” Christians. 

“I cannot imagine the Middle East without Christians. But the threat is real. Daesh (ISIS) wanted to eradicate Christians,” he said. 

“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.”

The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen dramatically since 2003, when there were around 1.5 million in the country. Today, some reports put the number of Christians at only 120,000. 

The picture is similarly grim in Syria, where there were around 1.5 million Christians in 2011.  After years of civil war, that figure has now dropped to half a million. 

Father Halemba said it would be a huge loss for the region if Christians were to be wiped out completely because they play a key role in peacebuilding.

“Christians are the soul of the country and they play a very important role in Middle Eastern societies. They are the peacemakers,” he said. 

“Christians work for peace and peaceful co-existence and collaboration for the good of the country.”

He said that if Christianity is to survive in the region, all Christians must work together.

“Families which pray together stay together. We all need to work for the good of all,” he said.

“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.”

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