WASHINGTON Assyrians were joined by faith-based leaders and religious freedom activists on Monday in a White House rally to call U.S. political leaders to save Iraqs most vulnerable population.
Christians for Assyrians of Iraq (CAI) organized a rally to raise awareness of the plight of Iraqs Assyrian (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) Christian population which has been called a humanitarian crisis.
This should be a priority because Assyrian Christians are the indigenous people of Iraq and many people dont know that, explained Paul Isaac, one of the rallys organizers. Because of their small population, weak status, and lack of regional support they have no one to protect them from all the violence.
Isaac pointed to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) report statistic that although Assyrians comprise only five percent of Iraqs population, they make up nearly 40 percent of the refugees fleeing Iraq. He said that although all the ethnic and religious groups are suffering in Iraq, it is clear that the Assyrian Christians are suffering by far the most and they really have no one to protect them
In addition to the troubling Assyrian refugee statistic, there has been a rise in reports of persecution of Assyrian Christians in Iraq. Recently, in October, a 14-year-old boy near Mosul died by a crucifixion-murder. In the same month, Father Paulis Iskander was beheaded in Mosul.
Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East are an inconvenient minority, said the Rev. Keith Roderick, Christian Solidarity Internationals Washington representative. Even though they are indigenous they are made to feel as they are interlopers.
Roderick added that 27 churches in Iraq have been attacked or bombed in the past two years and 13 Christian Assyrian women were kidnapped and murdered in August.
CAIs solution is the formation of an autonomous zone in Iraq for Assyrians and other Christians. The zone, called the Nineveh Plains Administrative Unit, is likened to a state where Assyrians and Christians can practice their faith, speak and teach their language, and work without fear of persecution.
Correction: Tuesday, December 5, 2006:
An article on Tuesday, December 5, 2006, about the Christians for Assyrians of Iraq incorrectly reported the month in which 13 Assyrian Christian women were kidnapped and murdered in Baghdad. The Christian Post confirmed with the Rev. Keith Roderick on Tuesday that he had misstated that the Assyrian Christian women were kidnapped and murdered in October when the women were actually kidnapped and murdered in August.