Christians are now an “endangered species” in lands where their faith was first rooted, a prominent ancient church leader warned on 3 August.
“The very existence of Eastern Churches, those Churches that come from the apostles’ time, is at stake,” said Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of the Syriac Catholic Church.
Speaking at the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus in Toronto, Canada, Younan said: “You [the West] can’t be allied with regimes that discriminate, or do not accept the religious freedom of non-Muslims.”
Apart from chiding a “hypocritical” West, Younan joined others in the global Church, who believe Christian suffering in the Middle East is part of a worldwide “jihad”.
“Who taught these two young men who slaughtered the priest?” he asked, referring to the jihadist killers of Fr. Jacques Hamel in Rouen, France, last week. “Their imam alienated them as children and as youth, and told them to memorise all the verses of the Qur’an.”
On 20 July, a senior Cardinal in Rome, Raymond Burke, said Muslims are “lovely people” who talk about religion “in a very peaceful manner”. But he said too few people understand the tradition of Islamic thought on government: that, when Muslims became a majority population, “they have the religious obligation to govern that country…. In reality, there is no place for other religions, even though they may be tolerated as long as Islam has not succeeded in establishing its sovereignty over the nations and over the world.”
This comes against the backdrop of widespread but less publicised attacks against Christians in other places.
Fr. Hamel’s murder is “another example of the persecution we see all too often in countries around the world,” said a statement by Open Doors, a global charity that supports Christians.
More than 7,000 Christians were killed and more than 2,400 churches attacked globally in the 12-month period ending 31 October 2015, according to Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List. The majority of incidents took place in Islamic countries, or were carried out by people who identify Islam as their main inspiration.