Christianity Is Vanishing From the Middle East. This Reporter Documents Its Decline

Visiting the beleaguered Christian communities of Iraq, Syria, the Gaza Strip and Egypt, Janine di Giovanni discovers a people facing an existential threat but determined to persevere

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An Iraqi soldier walking past a mural depicting Pope Francis next to an Iraqi national flag drawn on a blast wall outside the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad, last March.
An Iraqi soldier walking past a mural depicting Pope Francis next to an Iraqi national flag drawn on a blast wall outside the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad, last March.Credit: SABAH ARAR / AFP
Rich Tenorio
Rich Tenorio
Rich Tenorio
Rich Tenorio

Longtime war reporter Janine di Giovanni has covered conflicts for three decades and counting, from Bosnia to Rwanda. Yet when she visited northern Iraq after the fall of ISIS there, what stood out was a peaceful moment.

On her last day in Nineveh Governorate, she climbed uphill to enter the ancient Chaldean Christian monastery of Rabban Hormizd. She heard a voice singing in Aramaic – the language of Jesus. She followed the sound through a labyrinth of stone passageways into a small room. Finally, she encountered its source: an Iraqi-Australian priest named Father Isaac Royel, who was reciting evensong at twilight with his wife.

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