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Warsi warns of ‘mass exodus’

22 November 2013

AP

Faithful: worshippers at Easter mass at the Mother Teresa Catholic Church in Basra, Iraq, in March

Faithful: worshippers at Easter mass at the Mother Teresa Catholic Church in Basra, Iraq, in March

SECTARIAN terrorism is threatening to drive Christianity out of Iraq - a region where it was established in the time of the Apostles, the Government's Minister for Faith, Baroness Warsi, has suggested.

In a speech at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC, on Thursday of last week, she said: "A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale. In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct."

In Iraq, the Christian community has shrunk from 1.2 million in 1990 to 200,000 today, and in Syria the Christian population is declining rapidly in the face of attacks by extremist Islamists.

There have also been attacks on Christians in Pakistan and Egypt. But Christians are not the only victims - Hazara Shias, in Pakistan; Baha'is, in Iran; and Rohingya Muslims, in Burma, have also been persecuted because of their faith.

Lady Warsi called for a "cross-faith, cross-continent" response to the problem. "There is much more that we can do," she said. "There's an international consensus, in the form of a Human Rights Council resolution on the treatment of minorities, and tolerance towards other faiths.

But we need to build political will behindthat."

She has already had "very frank conversations" with ministers in Pakistan, telling them that senior politicians have a "duty" to speak out against persecution and set a standard for tolerance. She pointed out that 83 per cent of countries have constitutions that guarantee freedom of religion, but they do not all implement their provisions.

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