Sunday, July 13, 2014
Who mourns for the Christians of Iraq?
Since the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003, he estimates, Mosul's Christian population dwindled from 35,000 to some 3,000.Since the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003, he estimates, Mosul's Christian population dwindled from 35,000 to some 3,000. "Now there is no one left," he said. Most of them have joined the estimated 500,000 refugees who have fled the ISIS advance; many of the Christians, including the archbishop, have opted for the relative security of Iraqi Kurdistan. (The photo above shows girls praying in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Bartala, a town to the east of Mosul.)
The exodus has been triggered, above all, by the jihadists' reputation for bloodlust -- a reputation that ISIS has consciously furthered through its own propaganda. A few days ago, the jihadists used social media to distribute photos supporting their claim that they had killed 1,700 Shiite prisoners taken during their rapid offensive. No sooner had ISIS entered Mosul than some of their fighters set fire to an Armenian church. This all seems consistent with the group's grim record during the civil war in Syria, where, among other things, it has revived medieval Islamic restrictions on Christian populations. (It's their fear of Islamist rebels that has tended to align the Syrian Christian community with the secular regime of Bashar al-Assad.)
In 2003, it was estimated that some 1.5 million Iraqis were Christians, about 5 percent of the population. Since then, the overwhelming majority has reacted to widening sectarian conflict and a series of terrorist attacks by leaving the country. (Archbishop Nona's predecessor, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was kidnapped and killed outside his Mosul church back in 2008.) Almost all of the various Iraqi Christian communities -- the Chaldeans (who are part of the Roman Catholic Church), the Armenians, the Syriac Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox -- have benefited from large émigré contingents around the world who have welcomed refugees from Iraq.
So writes Christian Caryl in Foreign Policy magazine. There is little I need to add to the sad and too often overlooked story of the most vulnerable of the victims of Islamic violence -- the Christians of the Middle East. But let us pray for them and send them the aid they need to protect them and, if no other option, to relocate them away from the cross hairs of a nation and a religion seemingly bent on self-destruction. Sadly, it seems the world has decided to pretty much ignore the once vibrant Christian population in the Middle East and seems blind to the travesty and injustice they have and continue to suffer in places like Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Egypt, to name but a few. It is more than unfair that the folks so concerned with Islam and with offending Islam the religion or the people who adhere to it are not more inclined to notice or protest the persecution, suffering, and death the indigenous Christian population of those areas suffered, suffers, and, it seems, will continue to suffer at the hands of those who cannot agree on Islam but who seem united in their delight in making Christians the scape goats of their warring madness.