At least 14 Christians were targeted for killing in Mosul, about 260 miles north of Baghdad, earlier this month, prompting more than 1,300 Christian families to flee what had previously been a safe haven. The Geneva-based World Council of Churches has declared it is against the killings...but cannot bring itself to identify the killers.
"Of course, al Qaeda elements are behind this campaign against Christians," said Nineveh provincial governor Mohammed Kashmoula, who relayed the obvious to the Associated Press. But the World Council of Churches (WCC), in a nearly 500-word public statement, seemed to imply the Christians were slaughtered by anonymous forces. “We have heard that people are being killed, houses bombed, thousands are fleeing their homes, and churches and church properties are being destroyed,” fretted the WCC, pronouncing all of this news in the passive voice, unwilling to add a noun to such verbs as “killed,” “bombed,” and “destroyed.”
For the WCC to express specific concern about persecuted Christians is progress of sorts. But naming radical Islam as a persecutor remains taboo for the politically correct and highly multiculturalist WCC, for whom interfaith dialogue is more important than solidarity with besieged Christians.
The Islamist attacks on Christians in Mosul may have been prompted by hundreds of Christians who had protested the potential exclusion of Christians from elective offices in upcoming local elections, for which proposed religious quotas have been eliminated. Many Christians in Mosul had previously fled violence and threats in Baghdad. Now they have quit Mosul in favor of villages in Kurdistan.
"Christian families left in Mosul are very few indeed," observed Mariwan Nakshabandee of the Iraqi Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs. Iraq’s Christian population once numbered nearly one million, but at least half (and perhaps three-quarters) have fled Islamist violence in recent years. Some of the killers in Mosul told their Christian targets they were themselves to blame for having advocated an autonomous region in Iraq, which is an aspiration from some Iraqi Christians.
Before the killings, Islamists distributed leaflets in several mostly Christian neighborhoods of Mosul, threatening families to "either convert to Islam, or pay the jizya [the historical tax levied by Muslim rulers on non-Muslims], or leave the city, or face death." According to a CNN report, after the leaflets’ distribution, gunmen set up checkpoints and demanded that motorists present their identification papers, which show religious identification.
That the killers and tormentors of Mosul’s Christians were at the very least Islamists, and probably al-Qaeda, seems clear. But the World Council of Churches evidently was too polite to name names when mourning the murders of 14 Christians. “It is with anguish and great concern that we have followed the news concerning terrible acts of violence in Mosul during the past week,” the WCC’s chief Samuel Kobia told Iraqi Christians in a public letter. “The fellowship of the World Council of Churches is deeply troubled by your suffering and calls urgently for solutions. We have been in contact with officials of the United Nations and the Iraqi government, as well with our member churches and ecumenical partners throughout the world, lobbying for swift action to quell the violence in Iraq and to thwart activities aimed at the expulsion of Christians and other minority populations.”
The WCC tut-tutted over all the evidently impersonal “violence” against the Christians, as though they had been slain by wind or fire, not by angry Islamists who had meticulously identified Christians for killing so as to intimidate any further Christian political activism on behalf of their electoral representation. “We are also organizing a visit to Mosul and Baghdad by representative members of the ecumenical movement, to demonstrate our solidarity with those who are under threat,” the WCC helpfully promised, again not willing to say who or what poses a “threat” to Christians in Iraq.
“We in the World Council of Churches are urging all our member churches and partners to pray for peace and reconciliation in Iraq, to pray for the families of those who have lost their dear ones, for those who are displaced, for all others who suffer the consequences of violence and for all who are striving to restore trust and goodwill among people and communities,” the WCC’s Kobia intoned. He urged Christians to remain in Iraq: “Your presence in the land is an assurance that Christianity continues to endure; you are a sign of hope to people of faith everywhere.”
Why may Christianity not endure in Iraq? And why do Christians in the Middle East need hope? Who is threatening them? The WCC prefers to be coy. Joining in the denunciation of “violence’ against Christians in Iraq was the chief of the U.S. National Council of Churches. "Americans have a special responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for Christians and all Iraqi civilians," the NCC’s Michael Kinnamon declared. "I have no doubt that the coalition commanders are keenly aware of this, and I do not underestimate the complexity of their tasks. Even so, attacks on Christians in Mosul must not be allowed to continue."
The NCC report obliquely noted that the murders of the Mosul Christians have been “widely blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq,” but the NCC was likewise too polite to elaborate. In the same breath, the NCC did boast that the WCC had thanked the NCC for the “firm and courageous stance taken by the U.S. churches to protest the war in Iraq, from its inception until now." Opposing the U.S. presence in Iraq is apparently far more urgent than the plight of suffering Christians in Iraq. And neither the WCC nor the NCC seemed to realize the incongruity of demanding U.S. protection of Iraqi Christians while also demanding immediate U.S. withdrawal.
A statement from the Middle East Council of Churches similarly lamented the plight of Mosul’s Christians while failing to identify the killers. But this church council, based in Beirut, Lebanon, is justifiably cautious about naming radical Islam’s murderous impulses. Church officials in New York and Switzerland will not challenge radical Islam, not out of fear for their physical safety, but for simple lack of interest.
Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.