Patriarch issues dire warning: Christianity 'disappearing' from Mideast
A Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church has issued a dire warning that Christianity is in danger of disappearing across entire countries in the Middle East, the very land of its birth.
And the onslaught of ISIS has prompted an American Bible teacher, Joel Richardson, to observe that “we have begun to see the prophecy of Daniel fulfilled in our midst.”
There have been repeated warnings about the decline of Christianity in Iraq under the onslaught of the Islamic State, also called ISIS. Eight in 10 Christians have left Iraq since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, who had protected the 1.5 million Christians who lived there under his rule.
But the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Ignatius Aphrem II, has now told the Assyrian International News Agency that Christianity is also at risk of disappearing in Syria and Lebanon.
The massive decline of the Christian population in Turkey from 3.5 million to 150,000 in the last 100 years alone could be repeated in Syria and Lebanon, he told the news agency.
“I am worried that Christianity is on the way out both in Syria and Iraq as well as in Lebanon,” he said.
Already, in Syria, half of the Christians are either displaced or have fled abroad. Many are also fleeing Lebanon.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that thousands of bodies were found in 72 mass graves as images reveal the shocking scale of ISIS’ industrial-scale murder of Christian and Yazidi minorities. Satellite photos show the spot where more than 600 male prisoners were lined up and shot in northern Iraq. Aerial photos also offer the clearest look yet at massacre sites such as the one containing 600 male bodies at Badoush Prison in Mosul, a city with a once-large Christian population in northern Iraq.
International Christian Concern has recognized that two years ago, on June 10, 2014, Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city fell to the Islamic State. Since then, more than 100,000 Christians have been driven from their homes by the Islamic militants who still hold Mosul. In 2014, more than 500,000 fled Mosul, and since then, the number of displaced Iraqis has grown to over 3 million, many of the Christians who are often not treated well in United Nations refugee camps and therefore avoid entering the camps.
Joel Richardson, a documentary filmmaker and author of the New York Times bestseller “The Islamic Antichrist,” “Mideast Beast,” “The Coming Battle for Jerusalem” among other books, said it’s no coincidence that what is presently unfolding in much of the Middle East is precisely what is described in Daniel 7:7.
“There the prophet saw an empire that was yet to emerge on the earth, represented symbolically as an iron-toothed beast, which would first devour the saints of God all across the then known world, after which time, it would trample the remaining saints with its feet,” Richardson told WND in an email.
The prophecy continues:
“After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”
When Muhammad’s successors, the early Caliphs of Islam, burst forth out of Arabia in the seventh century, it was less than 100 years for the heart of the ancient church to have been virtually ripped out, Richardson noted.
“All of the great missionary-sending cities of the ancient Church were devoured. Antioch, Ephesus, Jerusalem, and Alexandria were all conquered by the Muslim hordes,” he said. “The ‘remainder,’ however, hung on. They survived the ensuing thousand years of pressure and until just a few years ago, the ancient Christians continued to call the Middle East their home. Now, since the Arab Spring and the onslaught of ISIS, we have begun to see the prophecy of Daniel fulfilled in our midst.
“The remnant is being crushed like crumbs under the feet of the iron-toothed fourth kingdom of Islam. This is the very nature of the spread of Islam. Wherever it goes, it shatters, crushes, and erases the cultures it conquers.”
Yet, despite the work of dark forces in the region, which Richardson believes is directly inspired by Satan, he said the Lord is also at work.
At the same time many of the traditional Orthodox and Catholic Christians are being forced to flee their homes and churches, many Muslims are also coming to faith in droves, he said.
“I recently saw another video of former Muslims from Iraq being baptized,” he said. “We must remember that despite the brutality of the crushing beast, so also does the Book of Revelation inform us that until the very end, there will always be a faithful remnant who will stand firm, not because their numbers are huge or because their militaries are the greatest, but because they will not love their lives, even unto death,” Richardson said. “The last days are closing in on all of us. It’s time to resolve in your heart to stand firm, even unto the end.”
Obama no friend to Christian refugees
The Obama administration has been antagonistic toward Middle East Christians. Of the more than 10,000 Syrians brought to the U.S. as refugees over the past year, a paltry 0.5 percent have been Christian while more than 98 percent have been Muslim, and the overwhelming majority of those being Sunni Muslim, the same sect as ISIS and al-Qaida.
In a further show of contempt for Iraqi Christians, the Obama Justice Department indicted and recently convicted Robert DeKelaita, an Iraqi-American Christian lawyer who has been successful in getting thousands of persecuted Iraqi Christians out of that country and into safe haven in the U.S. For his efforts, he was charged with “falsified” asylum applications for the Iraqi Christians, allegedly “exaggerating” their plight. DeKelaita faces up to 35 years in prison and his sentencing is scheduled for September in federal court in Chicago.
A warning for Europe
The Syrian Patriarch, whose church numbers five million worldwide, also called on Europe’s leaders to be more active in stopping radicalized Muslims entering their countries, warning against those who reject Western values and want Shariah law widely implemented.
“There should be a way of screening those who come to Europe so that they do not embrace extremist ideology. I do not know how this should happen, but it is necessary and should be done without infringing the rights of those who are peace-loving and law-abiding,” he said.
“Then there are those from Europe who go to Syria and elsewhere to wage jihad and who then come back from their countries. Europe has to be prepared for that.”
Patriarch Aphrem will be the guest of honor at the U.K. launch of the charity’s Religious Freedom in the World report in London in November.
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