Every year, huge numbers of Chinese, Koreans and South Americans are still being drawn to evangelical Christianity. The Queen’s Christmas message, and the sight of her, with the Royal family, loyally attending morning service at Sandringham is a reminder that we are still, notionally at least, a Christian country, with – as it happens – a Head of State who is herself a committed Christian.
Ever since William Dalrymple published his classic From the Holy Mountain in 1997, about the decline of Christianity in the very lands which gave it birth, it has been impossible to ignore the shrinkage. In eastern Turkey – St Paul’s earliest stamping-ground – Syriac Christians have been so persecuted that they fled to neighbouring Syria. President Assad is one of the few Middle Eastern leaders to protect Christians and their ancient shrines, and since the outbreak of civil war, Christians have paid the price for being the tyrant’s beneficiaries.
In Egypt, Coptic Christians suffer harassment and persecution. In Israel, the government turns a blind eye to encroachment, or destruction, of church property, and many young Palestinians, reared as Christians, have turned to Islam. As Dalrymple has more recently said, the Arab Spring was the Christian Winter.