Welby: Christians Face Middle East Elimination
Christianity is facing "elimination" in the Middle East at the hands of an Islamic State "apocalypse", the Archbishop of Cantebury has warned.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby used his Christmas Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral to say IS is "igniting a trail of fear, violence, hatred and determined oppression".
He branded the Islamist extremists as "a Herod of today" - a reference to the Biblical despotic king of Judea at the time of Jesus's birth.
"Confident that these are the last days, using force and indescribable cruelty, they (IS) seem to welcome all opposition, certain that the warfare unleashed confirms that these are indeed the end times," he said.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Mr Welby arrives at Canterbury
"They hate difference, whether it is Muslims who think differently, Yazidis or Christians, and because of them the Christians face elimination in the very region in which Christian faith began.
"This apocalypse is defined by themselves and heralded only by the angel of death.
"To all who have been or are being dehumanised by the tyranny and cruelty of a Herod or an ISIS, a Herod of today, God's judgement comes as good news, because it promises justice."
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis used his own festive message to urge all faiths to unite in the face of attacks on their freedom to worship.
He said: "It has been reported that persecution of Christians persists in over a hundred countries, more than for any other religion.
Pope delivers Christmas sermon in St Peter's Square Vatican Rome
The Pope delivers his sermon at the Vatican
"Faith communities have a responsibility to stand together to oppose discrimination and attacks on freedom of religious expression wherever they are to be found.
"Most recently, the shocking ban on public celebrations of Christmas in Brunei is reflective of an intolerance that as Jews, we simply cannot countenance."
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, urged the faithful to shun all violence.
"As we celebrate this Christmas let us be resolved to lay aside our own tendencies to angry violence so that we may condemn, with integrity, those who perpetrate such violence and claim for it the name of God."
Earlier, the Pope used his Christmas Eve mass at St Peter's Basilica to call on Christians everywhere to push back against materialism over the festive season.
He has also backed UN efforts to end the conflicts in Syria.
"We pray... that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people," he said. SkyNews