The Genocide of Christians in the Middle East

by | Apr 9, 2016 | Aid to the Church in Need, Church A, Church Archive

Full address by John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need (UK), on how Christians are being killed and driven out of the Middle East.

This talk hosted by The Iona Institute and Aid to the Church in Need took place in Dublin on 7th April 2016.


Since the violent Islamist group calling itself ‘Islamic State’ began seizing territory in Syria and Iraq in February 2014, strong evidence has emerged implicating it in what has been termed ‘genocide’. The nature of its violence – and more precisely the evident targets – make clear beyond reasonable doubt the extremists’ objective: to oppress those who do not share their extremist vision of Islam. It is against this backdrop that we see Islamic State or Daesh – as it is commonly called – setting about a process of eliminating Yazidis, Shiite Muslims and, of crucial significance given the title of tonight’s talk, Christians.

My purpose here is to assess the grounds for categorising Daesh’s actions in the Middle East as ‘genocide’ according to the specific definition of the term used in international law. This I will do both by looking at second hand sources – the ever-expanding range of material that has come out of the Middle East over the past months – and with the help of material I have collected during trips made to both Iraq and Syria, from where I returned only a few weeks ago.

From this body of evidence, I will set out to show that, yes, a genocide has indeed taken place against Christians and other minorities at the hands of Daesh. I will look at what this means for the future of Christianity in the land of its birth. And I will seek to show why the affiliation – both formal and informal – of Daesh with fellow Islamist groups means that the threat of genocide spreads far wider than the Middle East. This has specific implications for parts of Africa, notably Nigeria under threat from Boko Haram. Looking east, the threat has also appeared in the Asian sub-continent, in particular Pakistan, reeling from the Easter Day bomb blast in a packed park in Lahore…