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Why Assyrians in Iraq Are 'Close to Extinction'
By Herb Scribner
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Christians in Iraq are "close to extinction," according to BBC News.

The Most Rev. Bashar Warda, the archbishop of Erbil in Iraq, accused Christian leaders in Britain of not doing enough to stop Christian persecution in Iraq.

He said Christians in Iraq face extinction after 1,400 years of persecution. Specifically, he said the Christian community has dropped by 83 percent since the United States' invasion of Iraq. He said numbers have dropped from 1.5 million to 250,000, BBC News reports.

Related: Timeline of ISIS in Iraq
Related: Attacks on Assyrians in Syria By ISIS and Other Muslim Groups

"Christianity in Iraq," he said, "one of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom."

He said the battle with the extremist Islamic State is the "final, existential struggle" after the group began assaulting Christians in 2014, according to BBC News.

"Our tormentors confiscated our present while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future," he said, according to BBC News. "In Iraq there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life's work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years."

But it's not only Iraq or Christians. Religious persecution is widespread across the world. Notably, China has made headlines for placing Muslims in internment camps, according to The Associated Press.

China has denied that these camps target specific faiths. However, according to the AP, the camps are majority Muslim.

As Nicholas Kristof wrote for The New York Times, "China is engaging in internment, monitoring or persecution of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists on a scale almost unparalleled by a major nation in three-quarters of a century."

But these "appears to be the largest such internment of people on the basis of religion since the collection of Jews for the Holocaust," Kristof wrote.

The country hasn't set up concentration camps for Christians but "it has harassed congregations, closed or destroyed churches, in some areas barred children from attending services and last year detained Christians about 100,000 times," he wrote, based on numbers from China Aid, a religious watchdog group.

U.S. religious freedom ambassador Sam Brownback told the Deseret News that he's working with political groups and organizations to end religious persecution across the world.

Brownback said he meets a lot of people who express experiences with religious persecution, showing him that it's a widespread problem for many.

"I went in to buy a pair of cowboy boots in Kansas over the holidays and a young man was there that had known my son growing up," he said. "He was telling me about people that he knew that were being persecuted in India for practicing their faith."

He added, "Why should anybody be persecuted for peacefully practicing their faith, whatever that faith is? That just, at a core level, irritates me and makes my blood boil. "

Read more: The Atlantic writes about how Christians are disappearing from the Middle East, especially a group that has been there since the region was first settled.

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