ISIS 'Declares War on Christians'
Islamic State (ISIS) has published a new edition of the propaganda booklet Dabiq, which is again signaling its primary enemy - Christianity.
On the cover page of the booklet is a photo of the Vatican bearing the ISIS flag, along with the terror group's desires to conquer Rome and "break the cross."
According to some Islamic traditions, the founder of Islam Mohammed predicted that the occupation of the three cities of Istanbul, Jerusalem and Rome pave the way for the appearance of the Mahdi, the Islamic Messiah.
The declaration surfaces amid growing concern over the widespread persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
The cause sparked a joint conference between the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) and the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Jerusalem earlier this week, and an impassioned speech on regional issues by an Israeli Christian Arab leader to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last month.
"Across the Middle East, in the last ten years, 100,000 Christians have been murdered each year. That means that every five minutes a Christian is killed because of his faith," Father Gabriel Nadaf, who has campaigned for Christian Arab rights and for local Christians to support Israel, told the UNHRC in September.
"Those who can escape persecution at the hands of Muslim extremists have fled... Those who remain, exist as second if not third class citizens to their Muslim rulers."
Some 12 million Christians were estimated to have lived in the Middle East in total, according to a July estimate in the Guardian, but that number has been thought to have decreased drastically since ISIS's summer takeover in Iraq.
The Christian community has faced dire persecution in a variety of Middle Eastern countries over the past 2-3 years, with a systemic crackdown on religious dissidents intensifying as the region shifted more toward radical Islam.
In Egypt, Coptic Christians have been targeted by violence from the Muslim Brotherhood ad Salafi groups. In Syria, Al-Qaeda linked rebels have threatened to kill Christians who do not join the fight against President Bashar Al-Assad.
Iran has persecuted Christians relentlessly as well, recently making headlines for burning the lips of a Christian man caught eating during the Ramadan fast.