Sunday, July 13, 2014

Who mourns for the Christians of Iraq?

[Though the focus of the world is on the civil war in Iraq and the violence between the opposing Muslim factions, I am] mourning a more specific disaster: the flight and dispersal of the last remnants of Iraq's once-proud community of Christians. Emil Shimoun Nona, the archbishop of the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, has told news agencies that the few Christians remaining in the city prior to the ISIS invasion have abandoned the city.

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.


Wyldeirishman said...

It's not that they remain unnoticed, but more often than not the powers-that-be have already either bowed the knee to the golden idol of dhimmitude, or are simply all-too aware of the physical consequences of resisting the religion of peace.

God Almighty, protect and comfort your children as they seek refuge. May they ever realize their true refuge in You, no matter where their earthly circumstances find them.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

The Democratic Party, most of whose members follow similar values as Obama, the Clinton's, and other leaders, have a problem being sympathetic to the plight of Christians in persecuted nations. Why? Because the Democratic Party is in reality a leftist run political entity with little regard for groups of religious people who oppose abortion, gay marriage, and Hollywood morality. Although many registered Democrats may also be Catholics or worship in mainline liberal and progressive Protestant churches, they have no significant concerns for persecuted believers far removed from their own lives. The media is no better, often reporting attacks on Christians as "sectarian violence" and act as if it is not genocide, but merely a two sided political dispute, even though the Christians, being unarmed and peaceful, are the primary targets of ruthless killers. Only a few organizations, like Voice of the Martyrs, and some secular agencies....bother to report and expose this issue. Yes, we as American Christians, need to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters not only in Iraq, but in other Muslim nations, and in Communist countries. A few years ago, a young Chinese girl was given a 10 year prison sentence in China. Her crime? She was handing out Gospel tracts.

Anonymous said...

Christians began fleeing Iraq not long after Bush invaded the country, so American culpability started in 2003. (The irony is that Christians enjoyed a lot more protection under Saddam Hussein. I think he even had a Christian in his cabinet.) Waiting until 2014 to somehow blame the Democrats is a little naive and disingenuous.