Israeli Priest: ‘Every Five Minutes, a Christian Dies in the Middle East’

AP Photo/Hussein Malla
AP/Hussein Malla

A spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has denounced the “genocide” facing Christians in the Holy Land, declaring: “Every five minutes, a Christian dies in the Middle East, and Muslim leaders know it.”

Father Gabriel Nadaf, an Israeli priest born in Christ’s home town of Nazareth, is an outspoken advocate for Christians in the Middle East, and travels with a 24-hour security escort because of death threats leveled against him.

“What is happening in the Middle East is genocide, and it is happening today, now,” Fr. Nadaf told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) during a recent visit to Spain. “Every five minutes, a Christian dies in the Middle East, and Muslim leaders know it.”

“I have been screaming this for years while the world remains silent,” he said, noting that the region is being “emptied of Christians, and that is where their faith was born.”

Father Nadaf is not alone in denouncing the decimation of the Christian population in the Middle East.

Last month, Dr. Jerry Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Religious Broadcasters, noted the dire state of affairs for Christians in the region.

“We’re going to reach less than three percent Christian population in the Middle East in less than 10 years down from 13 percent about 100 years ago,” Johnson said during a panel titled “Save the Persecuted Christians” at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland.

“This is the cradle, the birthplace of Christianity and now we are down to four percent.” The only word that can be used to describe this catastrophe is “genocide,” he added, despite the fact that “it’s not so politically correct to use that word” in reference to Christians.

Father Nadaf has proposed that Christian leaders need to sign a clear declaration to address the genocide.

“What they are doing is not enough. Something needs to be done to save them,” he said, without ruling out military solutions “to protect the Christians there.”

Israel, the priest said, is one of the only Middle Eastern countries where Christians can live safely.

“In Israel, Christians are not killed, their churches are not burned, their female believers are not raped,” he said.

“Even though Christians in Israel are a minority, we enjoy a high quality of life,” Nadaf said. “But the most important thing is that we have a democracy and freedom of worship. When voices are raised against the state of Israel, this shows that there is a healthy democracy. Because in Islamic countries, which are located very close to us, the opposite happens.”

While the desperate situation of persecuted Christians in the Middle East is largely ignored by Western political leaders, there are a few conspicuous examples to the contrary.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for instance, has suggested that the vicious persecution of Middle Eastern Christians should have the double effect of inciting the West to offer assistance as well as waking the West up to its own Christian roots.

While the persecution of Christians in Europe is real, “it can in no way be compared to the brutal and physical persecution suffered by Christians in Africa and the Middle East,” Orbán said last October.

The greatest danger threatening us today, he added, “is the indifferent silence of the European elite who are renouncing their Christian roots, despite the fact that the fate of Middle Eastern Christians should wake Europe up to the fact that, no matter how unbelievable it may still seem, what happened there could also happen to us.”

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