For five years I have been telling listeners about the plight of Iraqi Christians. One of the oldest Christian communities in the world, one that prays in Aramaic just as our Lord did, has become the preferred target of all three of Iraq’s Muslim communities.
Well, their situation has become even more dire, and they are even more in need of our help.
The past few weeks have seen an escalated campaign of terror and extermination directed at Christians in the city of Mosul. In one week alone, more than 3,000 Christians fled the city and sought refuge in “churches, monasteries and the homes of relatives in nearby Christian villages and towns.”
What Archbishop Louis Sako called the “campaign of killings and deportations” comes along with the all-too-regular “abduction attempts for paid ransom” directed at Christians.
In just two weeks in October, at least 14 Christians were killed in Mosul as part of a “major displacement” orchestrated by al Qaeda in Iraq.
The killings came after leaflets were distributed in Christian neighborhoods telling Christians to “either convert to Islam . . . pay a tax levied on non-Muslims for protection . . . leave the city or face death . . .”
In a classic case of blaming the victim, CNN implied that Mosul’s Christians were somehow to blame for their own predicament. CNN reported that the “attacks may have been prompted by Christian demonstrations.” And what were they demonstrating for? “Greater representation on provincial councils.”
The nerve. Who do they think they are?
Well, their cries were heard. Leaders of Iraq’s Christian community met with Prime Minister Maliki to discuss the situation in Mosul. Afterwards, the prime minister affirmed the right of Iraqi Christians to “live in safety and dignity” and affirmed their status as a “component” of the Iraqi people.
The commander of Iraq’s military ordered “more checkpoints in Christian neighborhoods” and other security measures.
That may be too little, too late. Joseph Jacob, a professor at Mosul University, estimates that half of Mosul’s Christians have fled the city in the past five years. Like Christians in the rest of Iraq, they don’t see much of a future in the country where their community has lived since time immemorial.
It’s easy to understand why. If merely insisting on representation can prompt this kind of terror, why should they be reassured by anything the Iraqi government has to say? Especially as political Islam plays a greater role in Iraqi society.
Whoever enters the White House or Congress in January, our political leaders will be under great political pressure to reduce our presence in Iraq. And the Iraqi government now is working on a timetable for us to leave. But extricating ourselves from Iraq cannot come at the price of an 1,800-year-old Christian community.
The United States must insist on meaningful security guarantees for Iraq’s Christians, and Christians must insist to our political leaders that we keep our commitments and our honor intact. We owe Iraqi Christians at least that much respect.