Bishops, rabbis appeal for help for Christians

Assyrian Christians, who had fled Syria and Iraq, carry placards and wave Assyrian flags during a recent gathering in front of UN headquarters in Beirut.


Assyrian Christians, who had fled Syria and Iraq, carry placards and wave Assyrian flags during a recent gathering in front of UN headquarters in Beirut.

January 11, 2016

Canada's Catholic bishops and the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus are asking Canada to put a priority on helping persecuted Christians - whom Pope Francis and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks say face genocide.

"Christians experience religious persecution more than any other faith group on a global scale and in absolute numbers," the two groups said in a Dec. 15 letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion.

The letter came from Bishop Douglas Crosby, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, co-chair of the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus.

"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," their 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."


Crosby and Frydman-Kohl asked Dion to make advocating for at-risk Christian communities in the Middle East and Africa a priority.

As well, new ways should be found to provide "diplomatic and humanitarian assistance," they said.

The letter cited several studies that reveal 200 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.

Crosby and Frydman-Kohl noted the pope's Sept. 25 speech to the UN General Assembly where he deplored that Christians and others "have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property."


Because of such persecution, they face "the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement," the pope said.

The persecution affects not only Christians, but also members of "other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly," the pope said.

The letter from Crosby and Frydman-Kohl also cited the speech by Rabbi Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, to the British House of Lords last July.


Referring to Christian persecution in the Middle East, Sacks called on "people of all faiths and of none" to "stand together . . . for we are all at risk."

"Both Pope Francis and Rabbi Sacks have described the persecution of Christians in parts of the Middle East and Africa as genocide," the letter said.