25 October 2016, The Tablet

Brentwood Cathedral will turn red to raise awareness of Christian persecution in the Middle East

Since the start of the war in Syria nearly a third of Syria’s Christians have fled the country

Brentwood Cathedral will be floodlit in red during the whole of November to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

Since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, nearly a third of Syria’s Christians, about 600,000, have fled the country, driven out by extremist groups like the Nusra Front and Islamic State. Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham said in 2014 that more than 1,000 Christians had been killed, entire villages cleared, and dozens of churches and Christian centres damaged or destroyed.

November is traditionally the month in which the Church remembers the dead and by turning its facade red every night for the month the Cathedral hopes more people will become aware of the suffering of Christians.

Father Martin Boland, the Dean of Brentwood Cathedral, said: "In the Middle East, between a half and two-thirds of Christians have left the region or been killed in the past century. What was once a biblical heartland for Christians, is now a wasteland. Christianity is being wiped out in this region. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi Christian community became vulnerable to persecution. This was highlighted by the 2006 beheading of a kidnapped Orthodox priest, Father Boulos Iskander, and the kidnapping of 17 further priests and two bishops between 2006 and 2010.

“It is time for governments and international bodies to highlight the human rights abuses faced by Christians in the Middle East and to respond to them. If they don't, then Christianity will be wiped out in this region in a systematic and violent way.

“In November, nobody passing Brentwood Cathedral at night will be able to turn a blind eye to it and nobody, believer or non-believer, Christian or non-Christian, should turn a blind eye to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East."

In Iraq Sunni Muslims have suffered terribly as well, with an estimated 3.1 million displaced Iraqis, 85 per cent of whom are Sunnis.

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