Christians in the Middle East

“Don’t celebrate Easter otherwise you will be killed like your Christ”

This was the warning issued by extremists as they entered the Syrian capital Damascus. Naseem and Noora explained how and why they and their two girls, 10 and 6, had escaped to Jordan after the mutilated body of their priest, Fr. Haddad, was found dumped in the street. Christians elsewhere in Syria and Iraq are being told to “convert or die”, and priests in particular are being killed because they continue to serve Christians.

In Syria: 4 million people are urgently in need. Of these, 2.5 million are displaced and 3,500 flee Syria every day.    (To give some idea of the size of those numbers:- Scotland’s population is about 5 million, and there are about 1,500 Catholics in Aberdeen)

In Iraq: This is the story of one group of faithful living in Baghdad, Iraq:

“The people were in tears – they had lost loved ones: friends and family during the massacre in the church. They asked me to pray for a miracle. But for me a miracle has already taken place; our church did not need to close; people are coming back to the church and the Faith will not die out in the lands of the Bible.”  – Fr. Aysar, Our Lady of Salvation cathedral, Baghdad.

This was yet another attack on Christians. In October 2010 a four hour siege ended with the death of 45 people at Mass – that would be about a third of us at St. Joseph’s when the church is full. Who sat next to you on your right today at Mass? And on your left? If they were still alive, it could have been you that was killed in such a massacre.

Yet still the survivors return – aware that next Sunday it could be them.

In Iran: It is difficult to find out what is happening in Iran, but recent reports tell of many of the estimated 80,000 Christians living “underground”. Physical attacks, harassment, detention and imprisonment have intensified: yet the number of Christians grows.

Please pray for all those persecuted for their faith.

Finally, thank you to everyone who supported Aid to the Church in Need by buying Easter Cards, candles and other items. We raised over £150 which will help our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted for their – and our – faith.

Tim Stapenhurst, Aid to the Church in Need