(JNS.org) Pope Francis said he could not imagine a Middle East devoid of Christians.
“We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” Pope Francis told a group of Christian leaders from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, Vatican Radio reported.
The Middle East is facing a tremendous decline in its indigenous Christian populations amid regional upheaval related to the “Arab Spring” and the rise of Islamic extremism. According to the Pew Research Center, just 0.6 percent of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians now live in the Middle East and North Africa. Christians make up only 4 percent of the region’s total inhabitants, drastically down from 20 percent a century ago.
Pope Francis also said he will not rest “so long as there are men and women, of any religion, affected in their dignity, deprived of life’s basic necessities, robbed of a future, forced to the status of refugees and displaced persons.”