As Christians around the world celebrate the nativity of our savior, we gather in churches and hear the story of a Middle East where the holy family, as religious minorities in the Roman Empire, witnessed the birth of Christ, far from their hometown. We will recall that they then fled to Egypt as political refugees.
Two thousand years later, the Christian communities of the Middle East — descendants of the first Christians — persevere in their faith in Christ. They live in an era of violence, unrest and persecution. Many have been forced to flee their homes, and many more their countries.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recently wrote of the plight of Christians in the Middle East, stating: “Many have left. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes.” He warned that “across the region Christian communities that were the foundation of the universal Church now face the threat of imminent extinction.” I am sorry to say the archbishop is not overstating the dire nature of the plight faced by Christian communities throughout the region.