Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
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By Dan Wooding

7/4/07 ROME, ITALY (ANS) Several hundred people rallied in Rome on Wednesday, July 4th, to demand an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East that has forced thousands to flee the region, taking up a concern voiced recently by Pope Benedict XVI, says an Associated Press (AP) story.

“The demonstration was the brainchild of Magdi Allam, Italy’s leading Islamic commentator. It was endorsed by several top Vatican officials, including Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches,” said the AP story.

“We cannot remain silent before a tragedy that affects millions of people,” Allam told the crowd gathered in a central Rome piazza. “The systematic persecution of Christians in the Middle East is a human rights violation.”

The “Save the Christians” rally drew top Italian officials, including former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, as well as Jewish officials, including Abraham Foxman, U.S. director of the Anti-Defamation League.

“Never Again”

“I stand here tonight as an American Jew and as a survivor of the Holocaust to say to you that ‘never again’ was a pledge that the Jewish people learned with great pain and sadness,” he said. “But ‘never again’ is not limited to Jewish pain and suffering. ‘Never again’ is an imperative whether they’re Jewish, Muslims or Christians.”

“I pledge to you that our voices will be heard whenever Christians are discriminated against,” he said.

The AP story went on to say, “Benedict has become more outspoken about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, decrying the killing and kidnapping of priests and lamenting that thousands of Christians have been forced to flee the region because of persecution and security fears.

“He raised his concerns about the plight of Christians in Iraq during his audience with U.S. President George W. Bush on June 9. In Iraq alone, as many as 50 percent of the country’s Christians may have left the country, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal monitoring and advisory group.

“In the Holy Land, some estimates say the native Palestinian Christian population has dipped below 2 percent in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, down from at least 15 percent in 1950.”