Iraq had 300 churches and 1.4 million Christians in 2003, but now only 57 churches and about half a million Christians remain with members of the minority fleeing Islamist attacks, according to local reports.
Patriarch Louis Sako of the Chaldean Church told Mideast Christian News the remaining 57 churches also continue to be targeted. The number of Christians has fallen from about 1,400,000 in 2003 to nearly half a million now, added William Warda, the head of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, a registered local non-governmental organization.
This means more than two-thirds have emigrated, Warda said. "The last ten years have been the worst for Iraqi Christians because they bore witness to the biggest exodus and migration in the history of Iraq." more >>
President Obama toured the Church of the Nativity, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, the last day of his three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The Patriarch of Jerusalem welcomed Obama as "a messenger of peace and reconciliation."
Welcoming Obama to the "place where heaven and earth met," the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III called him "a messenger of peace and reconciliation," and then quoted the Beatitudes in part, saying "Blessed are the peacemakers," according to the White House pool report.
However, some were unhappy with Obama's visit. "Gringo, return to your country," read a sign held by a small group of Palestinian protesters who watched the presidential motorcade roll into Bethlehem from Jerusalem after it passed through Israel's barrier in the West Bank. A windstorm had forced Obama to travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by motorcade instead of helicopter. more >>
American pastor Saeed Abedini has sent a troubling letter to his wife, Naghmeh, detailing the beatings and harsh treatment he has been experiencing in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran.
"My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown," pastor Abedini wrote in a letter obtained by the American Center for Law and Justice, which has been campaigning for his release.
The troubling letter reveals that although Iranian authorities had promised him medical treatment, he has not received it, and in fact has been denied proper care because of his faith. more >>
U.S. President Barack Obama quoted Scripture upon beginning his historical trip to Israel Wednesday, which is meant to serve as a symbolic friendship gesture to the U.S.'s primary ally in the Middle East.
Upon de-boarding Air Force One at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport, President Obama reportedly held a press conference in front of Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak on the nature of his visit.
President Obama arrived in Israel on Wednesday, marking the first time he has visited the Middle Eastern country during his presidency.
The President began a 3-day visit and stressed to wary Israelis that the U.S. is committed to aiding the country provide its own security. He said that the country is also looking for a way for the nations in the region to come to some sort of peaceful agreement.
"I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors," Obama told reporters at Tel Aviv airport. more >>
Naghmeh, the wife of U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is serving eight years in a deadly prison in Iran for his faith, broke down as she testified on Capitol Hill, saying she has no heart to tell their kids that daddy might never survive if the government fails to protect him.
"Saeed is a husband and amazing father," Naghmeh told a standing-room only crowd at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress on Friday. "The kids and I miss him terribly. Our kids hold onto the hope of seeing their daddy very soon," she said, struggling unsuccessfully to hold back her tears.
Pastor Abedini and Naghmeh have two kids, Rebekka Grace, 6, and Jacob Cyrus, 4. "A day does not go by that they do not ask for their daddy. A day does not go by that they do not long for him. Most nights they cry themselves to sleep, wanting daddy home." more >>