Is there a future for Christianity in Iraq?

The Arab Spring has often been understood by many in the West as a "freedom movement" - an uprising of inspired, long-repressed communities with a desire for freedom and a pursuit of their own self-governance.  Yet, the impact of the Arab Spring throughout the Middle East has spurned a modern day exodus of Christians from the region and has left those believers who remain more vulnerable now than at any other time in modern history.

This sobering piece by Colin Freeman in yesterday's Daily Telegraph paints this very dark, grim picture for Christianity in the country of Iraq.  Under the role of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Christian community enjoyed relative protected status.  Today, the strongman has been removed and Christians have been left to the whims of al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism. 

The results for believers in the country are devastating. According to Freeman's report, some 62 Christian churches have been attacked in the 10 years since the removal of Saddam, and the Church that remains is a mere shadow of itself.  The city of Doura, pre-war, maintained a large Christian presence.  Today, in Doura and the rest of the country, not so:

"Doura was once one of the biggest Christian communities in Iraq, with 30,000 families," said Mr Esha, as he prepared for an afternoon congregation that barely filled two of the 22 rows of pews. "Now there are only 2,000 left. They feel they are strangers in their own land, and that makes them want to leave. The bleeding from migration is continuous."

...

"The picture in Doura is repeated across Iraq, and indeed the wider Middle East, where the onset of the Arab Spring has ended the protected status that the region's secular strongmen gave to religious minorities. In Iraq, a Christian community that numbered more than a million in Saddam Hussein's time is now thought to have shrunk to as few as 200,000."

The same statement can be said of many countries in the Middle East, where pressures have increased on Christian communities across the region.  In Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, Christians are often faced with the devastating choice to either leave their homeland or face extreme intimidation, violence, and persecution - sometimes, even death.

Perhaps most sobering are the words of the current priest of St. Joseph's Church in Baghdad, Saad Sirop Hanna, as he offers this devastating assessment for the future of Christianity in Iraq in the accompanying video: 

"If the situation continues in this way, I think there will be no Christians after 20 or 30 years. There will be very few Christians who will stay here.  That's... that's a fact."

Without a significant change in course, the global Church, Middle Eastern countries, the US and the world over, must now begin to consider - and plan for - a future Iraq and a Middle East without Christians... and prepare for the dark and frightening consequences that are sure to result.