Christians face being wiped out from the Middle East within ten years as increasing numbers are killed by Muslim extremists or forced to flee persecution, Catholic aid groups have warned.
The alarming rate of decline means the religion could vanish in some areas in just five years unless the world steps in, says the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
In Iraq, where Christians are being butchered in mass executions by the Islamic State, their number has plunged from one million to just 275,000 in the last 12 years alone.
The study says the faith is also facing increasing pressure in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Gulf nations, adding that the Church is being ‘silenced and driven out of its ancient biblical heartland’.
In a report titled Persecuted & Forgotten?, the British-based group says: ‘At a time when the numbers of displaced and refugees have hit an all-time high, Islamists groups — ISIS foremost — are carrying out religiously motivated ethnic cleaning of Christians.