Christians account for 4 per cent of the population of the Middle East, and are subject to varying degrees of persecution, ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life to genocidal attacks. The “Arab Spring” (uprisings in 2010/11) and the fall of established dictatorships in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq led to power vacuums that were partially filled by religious extremism. During the Syrian Civil War from 2011, serious substantial Christian minorities were often targeted as suspected supporters of the Assad dictatorship. In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities is alarming. In Saudi Arabia there are strict limitations on all forms of expression of Christianity, and even private acts of worship. In Egypt Christian Copts account for about one-fifth of the population, and Islamic State has threatened to “wipe out” this community, targeting respected local leaders, bombing churches and killing busloads of pilgrims. States, and state-sponsored social media, sometimes incite hatred and publish propaganda against Christians, especially in Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Inevitably persecution leads to exodus: in the Palestinian territories, Christian numbers have been reduced by 87 per cent, and are now below 1.5 per cent of population.
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