UN nuncio: 'Persecution of Christians is widespread'

Syrian Christians

The Vatican's apostolic nuncio to the United Nations told a congressional hearing on Tuesday that 'flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages in the Middle East even as we meet,' reports the Catholic News Service.

The House subcommittee on global human rights listened to international experts testify about the rise in Christian persecution throughout the world.

The archbishop has witnessed the violence firsthand. Before taking the post as the permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt served as apostolic nuncio to Iraq and Jordan and lived in Baghdad from 2006-10.

'This tragedy is all the more egregious when one pauses to consider that these men and women of faith ... have been living at peace with their neighbours for untold generations,' the Archbishop said.

The persecution of Christians in Iraq has increased in the wake of the country's democratic transition. There and elsewhere religious minorities had enjoyed some amount of protection under the strict law and order enforced by previous rulers. Archbishop Chullikatt said that today, 'because of the conflict, Christians are caught in the crossfire.'

He denounced the emerging 'tradition' of bombing Catholic and other Christian churches on Christmas Eve, which has happened in the Middle East for several years.

FULL STORY Persecution of Christians 'widespread, flagrant,' archbishop says (CNS)