Priest: Israel ‘Only Safe Place’ for Christians in Middle East

A Greek Orthodox priest told a United Nations panel about the horrifying plight of Christians in the Middle East and said Israel is the only place in the region where Christians can live in safety.

“The earth of the Middle East is soaked with the blood of Christians being killed daily,” Father Gabriel Naddaf, who lives in Israel, told the U.N. Human Rights Council in testimony released Wednesday by UN Watch.

“Do you know that at the start of the 20th century, Christians comprised 20 percent of the population of the Middle East? Today they comprise only 4 percent.

“Over the past years some 100,000 Christians have been killed annually. And why? Not for a crime they’ve committed, but only for believing in Christ. Only due to their religion.

“Christians in the Middle East are marginalized, their rights denied, their property stolen, their honor violated, their men killed, and their children displaced.”

Persecution has led to a massive exodus of Christians from the region. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Christian population of Iraq had been reduced by half, CNN reported. In Syria, one-third of Christians have fled the country.

“If we look at the Middle East, we realize there’s only one safe place where Christians are not persecuted. One place where they are protected, enjoying freedom of worship and expression, living in peace and not subjected to killing and genocide,” Naddaf said.

“It is Israel. The Jewish state is the only safe place where the Christians of the Holy Land live in safety.”

A Jewish newspaper in the United States, the Algemeiner, reported that the Christian population of Israel has more than quadrupled since its independence in 1948, from 34,000 to 158,000 in 2012, and it is still growing.

The priest told the U.N. panel in Geneva: “Many in the international community have chosen to criticize Israel. This in my mind is a double crime, because by doing so, the international community helps those striving to annihilate the Jews, the Christians, the Druze, and the Yazidis for political ends.”

Naddaf’s testimony was released one day after the latest in a long series of atrocities carried out by zealous Muslims against Christians and other minorities accused of blasphemy.

On Tuesday, a mob in Pakistan beat a Christian couple to death and burned their bodies for allegedly desecrating a Koran.

Shama Masih, a pregnant mother of three, reportedly burned some papers belonging to her deceased father-in-law, and a Muslim co-worker claimed to have found burnt remnants of pages from a Koran. A cleric in their Pakistani village told his community through loudspeakers to punish Shama and her husband Shehzad.

The mob dragged the couple out of their home and beat them to death before burning their bodies in a kiln, Reuters reported. But eyewitness accounts cited by CNS News asserted that the couple were beaten and then burned alive in the kiln.

Police claimed they arrested 44 people following the incident.

Christians make up about 4 percent of the population in Pakistan.

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