Christian presence in the Middle East threatened ahead of centenary of Armenian and Assyrian genocides

“Now, just as in 1914, Yazidis, Christian Armenians and especially indigenous Christian Assyrians are being targeted in the name of Islam,” The Conversation writes in an article titled “History repeating: from the Battle of Broken Hill to the sands of Syria.”

Just as it was in 1914, the 2000-year-old Christian presence in the Middle East is threatened with extinction, even as we approach the eve of the centenary of the 1915 Armenian and Assyrian genocides.

The author reminds that a century ago, the ideological forebears of IS targeted Christian Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians. Once the people were largely gone, their physical heritage was targeted: churches, monasteries, schools, hospitals, community centers, homes. Thousands of Christian holy sites were systematically destroyed across Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

Just as before, religion is being abused for political purposes by groups of extremists. Late last month, IS destroyed the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs at Deir-ez-Zor in north-eastern Syria, part of their campaign to “cleanse” their “caliphate” of the presence of “unbelievers”.

In a sea of inhumanity unleashed by IS, this was a particularly barbaric act, as the Church of the Holy Martyrs and its associated museum are dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

The church served as a massive reliquary containing the bones of Christian Armenians deported by the Ottoman Turkish Empire to the desert wastes around Deir-ez-Zor to die of hunger, dehydration or worse.

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