A watchdog group speaking out against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East has warned that followers of Christ are "defenseless" this Christmas season, and are marking the birth of Jesus Christ "under the yoke of genocide."
Philippe Nassif, Executive Director of In Defense of Christians, said in an article posted on The Hill that Syria's Christian population, two-million strong before the start of the civil war in 2011, has now diminished to less than half of that.
Nassif said that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will have to play an important role in helping save Christians.
"IDC calls on the incoming Trump administration to take swift action to protect the Christians of Iraq, Syria, and Egypt; to provide humanitarian aid and to urge governments to protect minorities; and to defeat ISIS – both militarily and by identifying and rooting out its ideological and financial bases of support," Nassif wrote, referencing the "yoke of genocide" in the article's title.
"IDC also calls for the creation of an autonomous region in the Nineveh plain for Christians and other minorities to live in Iraq, to enable them to rebuild their homes and restore their cultures without fear of death, torture or destruction."
He pointed to the numerous other regions around the world where Christians are targeted for their faith, from Islamic-majority nations like Pakistan and its strict blasphemy laws, to the recent bombing of St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Cairo, Egypt.
IS militants, who have been carrying out the genocide of Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, took credit for the Cairo church bombing, which killed 27 people, including children.
Coptic Bishop Anba Angaelos told The Christian Post last week that despite the horror of the attack, which was the deadliest assault on Coptic Christians in years, believers are already forgiving the terrorists.
"We are praying that there is healing in the community. We are ready to and we already have forgiven people for doing this because at the end of the day, a lack of forgiveness harms us more than anyone else," Angaelos told CP.
"I think that is something that we need to be mindful of as Christians, and I am very proud to say that this is something we have seen Copts doing very naturally and organically for decades."
IS has driven million of refugees to flee their homes in the Middle East, creating a vast humanitarian crisis, but its attacks have also reached major Western cities, including Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels, Orlando, and Berlin.
At the end it is civilians who are suffering the most, Nassif concluded in his article.
"We should remember the people of Syria and Yemen, with hundreds of thousands killed, millions displaced, and millions more innocent civilians on the verge of starvation as the result of wars waged by regional actors without regard for innocent, defenseless human life," the IDC executive director wrote, adding that the world can no longer ignore what is happening.
"Millions across the Middle East live on the front lines in the fight against ISIS. Most of them, like the Christians of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq are defenseless and are every year targets of ISIS and other Salafi jihadists at Christmas and Easter."