Bishop’s warning over Middle East Church

thertreverendjohnhind1.jpgBy: Adrian Hall.

The Christian church in its homelands in the Middle East is undergoing a “rapid attrition”, the Anglican Bishop of Chichester has warned.

Bishop John Hind, in a House of Lords debate on religious persecution, pointed to the “extreme deprivation” suffered by Christians in Iraq.

“In places where different faiths have coexisted for centuries we see the rapid attrition of the Christian church in its ancestral homelands,” he said.

“In Iraq, Christians have suffered extreme deprivation, sometimes due to sheer religious hatred, sometimes just caught in the cross-fire, sometimes because, amazingly and quite wrongly, they are regarded as representatives of a western faith.

“So we cannot disown our own particular responsibility and the pressure on Christians in some parts of the world.”

He said that persecution does not always take a violent form and there are “perfectly legitimate” attempts to persecute people based on the rule of law.

“Just across the border from Iraq, in south-east Turkey, a part of the world that I know particularly well, court cases are alleging the theft of land from local villages by monasteries in Tur Abdin which have stood there since the late fourth century,” he said.

“There is a certain degree of ridiculousness about some of this, but that does actually affect the sufferings of those Syriac villagers and others who are suffering so greatly.”

He also welcomed the return to work of Caroline Petrie, a community nurse in Somerset suspended for offering to pray for a patient.

He said a spokesman for a Muslim forum in his diocese in Sussex had described the suspension as “crazy”.

“It is a welcome sign of how faith communities can hold together in the face of a growing hostility to faith,” Bishop Hind said.

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