International Christian Concern, an organization that advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians, reported that the Vatican recently ordered the closure of eight churches in Baghdad.
The churches were closed “in May of 2017, after nearly seven years of low or no attendance” as Catholics fled Iraq, the organization reported. “After the regional Catholic Church authority visited the churches, the Vatican decided that it was best to close the doors for good. While this makes logistical sense, it represents a symbolic defeat for the church in the capital of Iraq.”
The Christian population in nine Middle Eastern states is 14,526,000, down from 14,740,000 in 2010, according to a report published by the Vatican newspaper.
The total population of Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey is 258 million.
The report draws on a recent study by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association on Christians in the Middle East. The study documented sharp recent and historical declines in Christian population:
- in Syria, from 2.2 million (2010) to 1.2 million
- in Egypt, from 19% of the population (1910) to 10%
- in Lebanon, from 53% (1932) to less than 40%
- in Jerusalem, from 20% (1946) to less than 2%
- in Palestine, from 20% (1948) to 1.2%
In the midst of the bloodshed, stories have emerged of Muslims – who form the majority in the southern Philippine city – putting their lives on the line to protect Christians and to help any desperate souls seeking escape from the bombing by government troops and shooting.
“I cannot tell them that I have Christians in my house for fear that somebody might get wind of the information and tell the ISIS (group),” said Mr Norodin, who refused to abandon them.
So he told the group hiding in his house to “stay put, relax”. “Nothing will happen to you while I’m here,” he assured them.