Regional Overview

The term ‘Middle East’ is defined here to include the countries from Mauritania through to Iran and from Sudan and Somalia to Turkey. It is almost impossible to provide exact figures, but the total Christian population forms about 3% (12 million) of the region’s inhabitants. Of this 3%, approximately 65% are Orthodox, 20% are Catholic are 15% are Protestant. There are known Muslim-converts or groups of converts in all of the countries in the region.


The population in the Middle East is estimated to be growing somewhere between 2.2—2.6% a year. There is no sign that the current trend of a decreasing percentage of Christians in the region will change. This declining ratio reinforces their current status as a vulnerable minority, highlighting the continued need for MEC’s work in the region.

 

Status of National Church

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Algeria Libya Mauritania Morocco Tunisia Sudan Egypt Yemen Oman  United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia Kuwait Iran Iraq Syria Jordan Turkey Palestine Israel Lebanon Northern Cyprus Bahrain Qatar Cyprus Somalia


Region One: No National Church—Countries: Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain—Population 43 million—Large numbers of foreign workforce, including a large number of Christians.

Region Two: Small not legally recognized Church—Countries: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen , Somalia —Population 101 million—Less than 40,000 national Christians.

Region Three: The Church is recognized by the government—Countries: Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran—Population 321 million—most national Christians live in this region.

Choose a country or region to get more information on it.

Latest Requests

  • Syria: abduction of Assyrian Christians in Hassaka Governorate

    Posted on 24th February 2015

     

    Syrian Christians have requested prayer for a developing situation in north-east Syria in which large numbers of Assyrian Christians have been abducted by Daesh ('Islamic State') militants.

     

    The abductions began at around 4.00am local time yesterday (23rd February) when Daesh launched an offensive on a 40km front along the River Khabour in Hassaka Governorate. There are around 35 predominantly Christian villages along the river in that area. The Daesh offensive follows clashes in which Kurdish and Syriac militias claim to have 'liberated' villages from Daesh control in neighbouring Raqqa Governorate.

     

    According to one source, more than 600 families managed to flee from these villages. However, many Christians were abducted by Daesh militants. There is still some uncertainty about the exact numbers being held; one source refers to 56 Christians having been taken from the village of Tal-Shamiram and 'dozens' from other villages. Some refer to up to 100 having been abducted.

     

    There are reports that churches in two villages were set on fire, and that a 17 year-old Christian was murdered. Examples of Muslim neighbours showing solidarity and assisting Christians have also emerged.

     

    The reason for the abductions has not been stated. There is speculation that the abductees may be used in negotiations for the release of Daesh militants captured by Kurdish militias. However, there is grave concern over the fate of the Christians, especially in view of the recent murder of 21 Christians by Daesh-affiliated militants in Libya.

     

    Syrian Christians ask us to pray that:

     

    a.  Those abducted will know the presence and protection of Jesus, and will be released soon

    b.  Those displaced from their homes will know the Father's care and provision, and will be able to return to their villages soon

    c.  Violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria

    d. Those responsible for the abductions will know the Spirit's conviction of sin, seek the Father's forgiveness and find new life in the Son

     

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iran: Release of Rasoul Abdollahi

    Posted on 23rd February 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

     

    We are pleased to report that an Iranian Christian has recently been released from prison, although the conditions imposed are severely restrictive.

     

    Rasoul Abdollahi had been arrested on 26th December 2010 along with Farshid Fathi and other believers. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in December 2013 following a conviction for "collusion against the government" and "evangelism" and detained in Evin Prison, Tehran.

     

    On 2nd October 2014 Rasoul was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. On 24th October he and another Christian prisoner went on hunger strike to demand relocation because of overcrowding.

     

    Rasoul was released on 16th February 2015, but strict conditions have been imposed which preclude him from participating in Christian activities. Violation of any of the conditions could result in his re-arrest to serve his full 3-year sentence.

     

    Please also continue to remember Farshid in prayer. In April 2012 Farshid was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. In April 2014 Farshid was beaten by security officials during a raid on political prisoners in Evin Prison, and he suffered a fractured foot and toe. He was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison on 19th August 2014.

     

    On 29th December 2014 Farshid received an additional sentence of one year. This followed the discovery of alcohol during the raid on Evin Prison in April, which security officials attributed to Farshid. Farshid strongly denies this claim and his lawyer has appealed against this decision.

     

    Iranian Christians rejoice that Rasoul has been freed, but they are disturbed by the severe conditions placed upon his release and request our continued prayers that:

     

    a. As he returns to his home and family, Rasoul will know God's strength and love and recover from his imprisonment.

    b. The appeal against the additional sentence for Farshid will be successful.

    c. The Iranian judiciary would not impose conditions of release which restrict freedom of religion or belief.

    d. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus (including Farshid) will be released soon.

    e. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

     

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Libya: Murder of 21 Coptic Christians

    Posted on 16th February 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of God, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.

     

    Christians in Egypt are deeply saddened by the brutal murder of 21 Coptic Christians by Daesh (so-called 'Islamic State' or IS) Muslim extremists in Libya. The extremists published a video on Sunday evening (15th February) showing the decapitation of the Copts.

     

    The Copts had been kidnapped around Sirte in two separate incidents. On 31st December 2014 Daesh extremists stopped a minibus carrying Egyptians. They took the seven Coptic passengers captive and allowed the Muslim Egyptians to continue their journey. Four days later the extremists entered an apartment block in Sirte. They went to apartments rented by Coptic Christians and kidnapped 13 of them. The details of the abduction of the 21st Christian are unknown.

     

    On 12th January the Libyan branch of Daesh issued a statement that they were holding the 21 Copts in captivity. Exactly one month later, on 12th February, the extremists published pictures of the 21 Copts on a beach in orange jumpsuits, often an indication that the wearer is destined for execution. On the evening of 15th February the extremists finally published a horrific video showing the beheadings.

     

    The 21 Copts came from villages in the central Samalut region in northern Minya in Egypt. This region suffers from high poverty rates and a lack of job opportunities, which leads many inhabitants to move to other Arab countries in search of work. Eye-witnesses report very emotional scenes as the news reached the villages the Copts came from, with relatives screaming and fainting.

     

    These murders are not isolated incidents. In 2014 24 Coptic Christians were killed in Libya. Since 2011 there have also been several attacks on the Coptic church building in Benghazi and a Coptic community centre in Misrata.

     

    Christians in Egypt request our prayers that:

    a. The families of those murdered will know the peace, presence and comfort of Jesus in these difficult times, and God's provision for the future, as the victims were important breadwinners for their families.

    b. Egyptian and other Christians in Libya will know the Father's loving protection, and the Spirit's guiding wisdom, as many try to leave but are unable to do so due to the security situation in many parts of the country.

    c. The murderers will know the Spirit's conviction of their sin, and seek the Father's forgiveness and new life through the death and resurrection of the Son.

     

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iran: one believer released, another re-imprisoned

    Posted on 29th January 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

    Iranian Christians rejoice at the release of one Christian detainee, but request prayer for another who has been returned to prison following earlier conditional release.

    On 8th February 2012 eight believers were arrested in coordinated raids by security agents in Shiraz. Three (Nima, Sharifa and Masoud) were released on bail in March 2012, a fourth (Fariba) was released on 18th October 2012, a fifth (Korosh) on 18th May 2014 and a sixth (Homayoun) on 10th November 2014.

    We are pleased to report that a seventh, Vahid Hakkani, was released from Adel-Abad Prison in Shiraz on Monday 26th January 2015. Vahid went on hunger strike at least twice during 2014 to protest against rejection by judicial authorities of his appeal for conditional release. His family and friends had been concerned about the condition of his health.

    While Iranian Christians rejoice at Vahid's release, they request prayer for Homayoun who has had his bail conditions cancelled. He has been returned to prison to complete his sentence of 3 years and 8 months, with an additional suspended sentence of 8 months. He was charged with attending a house church, spreading Christianity, having contact with foreign ministries, propaganda against the regime and disrupting national security.

    Of the eight who were originally arrested in 2012, two now remain in detention: Homayoun and Motjaba.

    Iranian Christians request our continued prayers that:
    a. Vahid will know God's strength and love and recover from his imprisonment as he returns to his home and family
    b. Homayoun and Motjaba, together with all others detained in Iran for their Christian faith or activities, will know the Lord's strength and support during their detention and that they will be released soon
    c. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God
    d. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Turkey: Update Malatya trial

    Posted on 22nd January 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd 

     

    On 21st January, the 101st hearing into the trial of the murder suspects responsible for the killings of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske was held in Malatya . These murders occurred on 18th April 2007 at the Zirve publishing house in Malatya. Following the hearing, three defendants were released, much to the disappointment of the victims' families, lawyers and the Christian community in Turkey. 

     

    The five perpetrators arrested at the crime scene had already been released from prison in March 2014 and have since been allowed to live at home with their families. Even though four of the defendants have electronic tagging devices attached (the other must report daily using his house telephone), they have been seen moving freely in Malatya.The authorities are aware of the situation, but so far have failed to address the violation of the conditions of house arrest. 

     

    During the trial, it became clear that a shadowy nationalistic organisation, known as Ergenekon, was associated with the attack on Zirve publishing house. It was claimed that Ergenekon sought to destabilise the government through the Malatya murders and similar attacks on Christians, including the assassination of prominent Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. As a result, further arrests were made of those suspected in planning the murders in addition to the actual perpetrators. 

     

    One of the lawyers representing the families of the victims, Erdal Dogan, explained that after 17th December 2014, relations improved between the government and the former Ergenekon members and that the release of the three suspects is probably related. 

     

    Turkish Christians following the trial request our continued prayers that: 

    a.  The families and friends of the murdered Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus, especially concerning the trial process
    b.  Political manoeuvres will not affect the judicial process and that justice will be seen to be done
    c.  The Christian community in Turkey will be encouraged and respond appropriately to the court decisions
    d.  All those who aided or perpetrated the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and understand the depths of Jesus' forgiveness
    e.  All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice
    f.  All judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, and be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.