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About half of Iraqi and Syrian Christians have fled from their homelands since 2011, report says

(Reuters/Umit Bektas/Files)Generations on, Christians fleeing Syria return to Turkish homeland they once fled February 28, 2014 07:40am EST

A new report prepared by three Christian advocacy groups has estimated that about 50 to 80 percent of Christians living in Iraq and Syria have been killed or have fled their respective countries since 2011.

It has been estimated that there were over 300,000 Christians in Iraq in 2014, but the number has been reduced to 200,000–250,000. In Syria, the Christian population of around 2 million in 2011 has "roughly halved," according to the report produced by Christian charities Open Doors, Served and Middle East Concern.

The investigative study noted that the Christians who are now residing elsewhere have "little incentive" to return to their homelands, with several interviewees saying, "the Middle East is no longer a home for Christians." It stated that the arrival of the Islamic State terror group was only the "tipping point" for the displacement of Christians, who have experienced an "overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future."

Among the factors offered by interviewees for leaving their homelands were the violence, the lack of employment and educational opportunities, the emigration of others and the consequent loss of community, and the near-complete destruction of some historically Christian towns.

The report, titled "Understanding recent movements of Christians from Syria and Iraq to other countries across the Middle East and Europe," further noted that most Christians have resettled in Lebanon while thousands of others are now residing in Jordan and Turkey. A smaller number of Christians have fled to European countries such as Sweden and Germany, but recent policy changes and living conditions have made it more difficult for refugees to stay in such countries.

A policy paper released along with the report has called on the European Union to establish an "accountability mechanism" to deal with grievances related to incidents of religious and ethnic persecution and discrimination in Iraq and Syria.

While many nations have offered to take in Christian refugees fleeing the conflict in the Middle East, few have offered support to enable them to remain in their homeland.

A notable exception would be Hungary, which has donated five million euros to aid persecution Christians in the region, according to Breitbart News. Last fall, it became the first country in the world to establish a government department that deals specifically with the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Europe.

The charities that produced the report stated that "many" of those who remain in their homelands "want to play their part in rebuilding the shattered societies of Iraq and Syria."

"They want to be seen as Iraqi or Syrian citizens, enjoying the full rights of citizenship, such as equality before the law and full protection of their right to freedom of religion or belief, including the ability for everyone to freely worship, practise, teach, choose and change their religion. They are not calling for special privileges as a religious minority," the report noted.

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