Christians in the Middle East are facing ‘imminent extinction’, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned today.
Justin Welby said followers of the faith were subject to the ‘daily threat of murder’ and the situation was the worst ‘since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century’.
The stark warning came as the Archbishop urged the Government to take in more refugees.
Figures suggest that just one in 400 Syrian refugees given asylum in the UK last year was a Christian.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show ahead of a special service at Westminster Abbey, Mr Welby said: ‘The plight of Christians in many parts of the Middle East has become more and more acute.
‘As we approach Christmas, we need to pray for them and speak out for them.’
In a separate article for the Telegraph, he added: ‘Christians face daily the threat of violence, murder, intimidation, prejudice and poverty.
‘In the last few years, they have been slaughtered by so-called Islamic State, and in many countries they find themselves squeezed between the upper and lower millstones of pressure on them within society and of conflicts that afflict the region.
‘Many have left. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Many have been killed, enslaved and persecuted or forcibly converted. Even those who remain ask the question, ‘Why stay?”
The Archbishop pointed out that the Christian population of Iraq was under half what it was in 2003, and many churches had been destroyed.
‘Across the region Christian communities that were the foundation of the universal Church now face the threat of imminent extinction,’ he wrote.
He added: ‘We must support and help them in every way we can. Where they wish to leave, they will be refugees in need of asylum.
‘Where, courageously and by the grace of God, they choose to remain, they need publicity and external, visible support.’
The Church of England leader will join Prince Charles for a service on Tuesday, service, where royal is expected to give a reflection focusing on forgiveness and reconciliation.
He has previously spoken of his ‘heartbreak’ at the situation.