An unfolding tragedy: The decline of religious diversity in the Middle East

Feb 8, 2021 | Uncategorized

An unfolding tragedy: The decline of religious diversity in the Middle East

David Alton at Simele in Northern Iraq at the site of the Assyrian Genocide
Raphael Lemkin’s experience of the Holocaust and his study of the fate of the Assyrians and Armenians led him to coin the word Genocide and to create the Genocide Convention

An unfolding tragedy: The decline of religious diversity in the Middle East posted on bycswpress in Egypt, Iran, Middle East & North Africa, Syria, Turkey

By Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has seen a significant decline in religious diversity in recent years. While ancient Christian communities have often suffered, practically no religious group has been safe from this ongoing tragedy, with Ahmadis, Baha’is, Jews, Yazidis and Zoroastrians all affected, as well as both Shia and Sunni Muslims. For a host of reasons, in several countries in the region, minority communities who have deep roots going back several generations are being forced to leave their ancestral lands.

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Since 2003, the numbers of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq have both dropped significantly. Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have emigrated because of terrorism and sectarian violence. They will never return.

Religious minorities across the MENA region continue to be targeted with a range of violations in a host of different contexts. In more recent times this repression has been heightened by the rise of IS, leading to a dispersal of minority communities, who are often left with no alternative but to leave their homes in pursuit of refuge and acceptance elsewhere.

This is often a double-edged sword: not only has it chipped away at the existence of the rich cultural heritage of minority groups which constituted a much larger portion of the population of many Middle Eastern countries; it also has the potential to hinder the growth of the faith for current and future generations.

Such a loss of religious diversity would be devastating. Those who seek to create monochrome societies, incapable of respecting difference, must be made to understand that such intolerance undermines and impoverishes society, and is invariably a harbinger of the erosion of other freedoms and rights cherished by people of all faiths and none.

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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