Artem Sokolov on Vesti.FM: 18 million Christians live in the Middle East today
Today, a huge number of Christians live in the Middle East, analyst of Vestnik Kavkaza news agency Artem Sokolov told Vesti FM’s National Question Program. Due to the latest data, their number reaches 18 million people. Today’s Arabic Cycle program was dedicated to the history of the Eastern churches.
“For a number of reasons, it’s impossible to name the exact number of Christians currently living in the Middle East. However, according to the latest data from local churches and the UN, there are about 18 million Christians in the region, including the countries of the Persian Gulf, Yemen and Iran. The leader among other countries is Egypt - more than 9 million Christians live there. It is followed by Lebanon (2 million people), Saudi Arabia (1.4 million), Syria (1.2 million people), the United Arab Emirates (720 thousand) and Kuwait (714 thousand), ” the analyst cited the official statistics.
“The largest group of Christians in the Gulf countries lives in Saudi Arabia - 1.4 million people, over 1 million of them are Catholics, mainly Filipino expats, whom the authorities allow to work without granting Saudi Arabian citizenship. Although Saudis allow Christians to enter the country as foreign workers, they are prohibited from openly practicing their religion, as well as attending the historic Christian church in the Jubail region. Though, the situation is changing gradually: in May, Saudi Arabia agreed with the Vatican on the construction of the country's first church for Christians, ” Artem Sokolov said.
“In recent years, the highest migration rate of Christians from the Middle East has been observed in Syria. Now there are only 1.2 million people left there, which is almost half as much as in December 2010 (2.2 million at the beginning of the Arab Spring). The largest churches here are the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Church. There are also the Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Gregorian, Assyrian and Chaldean Churches, ” the analyst added.
“The main reasons for the decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East over the past few years are the war in Syria and the emergence of ISIS, which provoked a large-scale emigration. In general, the migration of Christians from the Middle East is more than a hundred years old. This phenomenon has many reasons, which vary from country to country, ” Artem Sokolov concluded.