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Published on May 20, 2017
I have a long association with the Coptic Christians in Egypt through its large diaspora community living in London. The attacks of last month against two Christian churches in Egypt were the latest in a series of atrocities. These remind us not only of the continued security risk that Egypt faces from Al-Qaeda, particularly in the Sinai, but also of the wider plight that Christians as communities face across the entire Middle East.
There are around 30 million Christians living in the region, the largest numbers based in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. The Syrian civil war has tragically seen tens of thousands of Christians displaced and fleeing for their lives as Isis has deliberately targeted them both there and in neighbouring Iraq where, on a visit two years ago, I met a number of Assyrian Christian IDPs. I would like to take this opportunity to praise the efforts of the KRG in providing shelter for Christian refugees housed within its territory.
Whilst I of course also welcome the support from EU Member States that has been given and offered to Christian refugees from the Middle East, I believe that it is important that we recognise that such expulsions of Christians is precisely the aim of groups like Isis, who wish to see a Middle East free of all non-Sunni Muslim religious minorities. Our efforts should therefore concentrate on establishing safe haven autonomous regions within the Middle East, such as in the Nineveh Plains in Iraq, and supporting communities to rebuild their lives and defend themselves in the places that their civilisation has been rooted for over two millennia. With some five million refugees and IDPs uprooted from their homes due to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, it is easy for the plight of the Middle East Christians to be forgotten.