CHRISTIANITY is in danger of becoming extinct in its ancient homelands because of a rising tide of sectarian attacks, a senior minister has warned.
Violence against Christian worshippers by religious fanatics has become a "global crisis" and is the gravest challenge facing the world this century, Baroness Warsi will say.
In a major intervention, Lady Warsi, the Minister for Faith who sits in the British cabinet, is to host an international summit to draw up a roadmap to end the violence against Christians – particularly in the countries where the faith was born.
"A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale. In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct," she will say at a speech at Georgetown University in Washington.
Lady Warsi highlights the bombing of All Saints Church in Pakistan, killing 85 congregants, in September and the gun attack on a Coptic wedding party in Egypt as the latest outrages by militants who have turned "religion upon religion".
"There are parts of the world today where to be a Christian is to put your life in danger," she writes.
"From continent to continent, Christians are facing discrimination, ostracism, torture, even murder, simply for the faith they follow.
"Christian populations are plummeting and the religion is being driven out of some of its historic heartlands. In Iraq, the Christian community has fallen from 1.2 million in 1990 to 200,000 today. In Syria, the horrific bloodshed has masked the haemorrhaging of its Christian population," she warns.
Terrorists are subjecting Christians in the Middle East to "collective punishment" for American foreign policy. Worshippers are now regarded as newcomers and agents of the West despite living there for centuries, she warns.
The attacks come against a diverse background of political upheaval, local turf wars and social unrest – but they share the common trait of Christians becoming a "scapegoat" for extremists who are insecure in their own religious identity, she will say.
It is the same mindset that motivated the Nazis to persecute the Jews and the Communists to suppress the Russian church, she will say.
Lady Warsi will be the first senior British politician to draw attention to the plight of Christians in the Arab world, and will call on other Muslims to defend Christians, citing the example of Christians who defended praying Muslims in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian uprising.
"A bomb going off in a Pakistani church shouldn't just reverberate through Christian communities; it should stir the world," she will say.
The response must be a co-ordinated international effort similar to the campaign against Apartheid and for Civil Rights in the US.
In the New Year she will host a summit in London with judges, politicians and religious leaders from around the world.
Her intervention comes as church leaders become increasingly alarmed at the rising numbers of sectarian attacks on churches in the Islamic world. (© Daily Telegraph, London)