The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of his fears for Christian communities in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab spring.

Dr Rowan Williams said the departure of autocratic regimes in countries like Egypt had left a “vacuum” which was being filled by violent extremists who were turning on the Christian minorities.

He said the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt had been the victims of a series of “atrocities”, in Syria the pressure was building while in northern Iraq, Christians were facing a form of “ethnic cleansing”.

Even in Bethlehem, Christ’s birthplace in the occupied West Bank, the Christians who had once been in the majority had been reduced to a “marginalised minority”, he said.

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