More Christians risk being persecuted for their faith in the 21st Century than in the early history of the Church Pope Francis has said.
His stark warning comes as the highest-ranking Muslim in the British government called on European governments to do more to protect besieged Christian minorities across the world, particularly in the Holy Land where they are now seen as ‘outsiders’.
Pope Francis appealed to believers in the West to show solidarity with the many Christians undergoing persecution throughout the world, praising their courage and testimony.
He urged prayers for “our many Christian brothers and sisters who suffer persecution because of their faith.
“There are so many of them. Maybe, many more than in the early centuries,” he said.
Meanwhile, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s minister for faith and the first Muslim member of a British cabinet, said religious freedom is a proxy for human rights and must not be an “add-on” to foreign policy.
“A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale,” she said in a speech at Georgetown University.
“In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct.”
Baroness Warsi said Christian minorities in war-torn regions of Egypt, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere are threatened by Muslim majorities in the very places that gave rise to Christianity.
“What concerns me is that these communities…are now being seen as outsiders”.
She warned that too often “the local Christian community is fair game, and somehow collective punishment can be meted out against these communities for what they see as the perceived actions of their co-religionists” abroad.