In both Iraq and Syria Christian and Muslim communities have lived side by side for generations.
But we see a very different experience in recent years. Violent persecution of Christians and other minority groups has arisen from sectarian divisions encouraged by Islamist insurgency leaders for political gain.
In Iraq, following US-led military intervention, there was a huge increase in violence brought about by the power struggle between Sunni and Shia militias. The seeds were sown for further persecution and expulsion of Christian communities by ISIS/Daesh. Christian leaders from the region have argued that the actions of Daesh against Yazidi and Christian populations constitute ‘genocide’ according to the internationally agreed definitions of this term.
Countries engaged in external military intervention in Syria have yet to determine a strategy for bringing to an end the cycle of violence. There is concern among churches in the region, that the ‘moderate’ opposition in Syria supported by the United States and coalition partners is not committed to a pluralistic society or to bringing about reconciliation across sectarian and religious divisions.