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Canadian bishops seek help for persecuted Christians in Mideast, Africa

  • December 18, 2015

OTTAWA - Canada’s Catholic bishops and the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus are asking the Canadian government to make helping persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa, whom Pope Francis and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks say face genocide, a priority.

“While we recognize that many religious and ethnic communities are subjected to prejudice in various countries, many observers have noted in recent years that Christians experience religious persecution more than any other faith group on a global scale and in absolute numbers,” wrote Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Bishop Douglas Crosby and the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus co-chair Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl in an open letter Dec. 15 to Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion.

“From Egypt to Iran and from Iraq to Nigeria, Christian communities throughout the region experience persecution in various forms, ranging from state discrimination to intimidation by local populations to attacks by terror groups on churches,” the letter said. “In some countries this has resulted in a veritable exodus of local Christians — an added tragedy given that many of these communities have existed for millennia in a region that is the birthplace of Christianity.”

The letter cited several studies that reveal up to 230 million Christians “face daily threats of murder, beating, imprisonment and torture, and a further 350 to 400 million encounter discrimination in areas such as jobs and housing.”

“Pope Francis has repeatedly called on the international community to protect Christians and other minorities who are being persecuted in the Middle East,” the letter said. “Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly this past Sept. 25, he renewed his ‘repeated appeals regarding the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.’”

The letter also cited Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth Rabbi, and his speech to the British House of Lords last July referring to Christian persecution in the Middle East in which Sacks called on “people of all faiths and of none” to “stand together … for we are all at risk.”

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