NEW YORK -- As the Christian community expresses its concern over reports of a mass exodus of Christians from Iraq, an Iraqi official says the situation is not as bad as it seems, and that Iraq, with a tradition of religious tolerance, very much has a chance to become an oasis of peace and tolerance in the region – but that would require the eradication of extremism.
The Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. T. Hamid Al-Bayati, met with a group of local interfaith religious leaders in the Permanent Mission of Iraq to the U.N. in New York City Thursday to discuss what the international Christian community can do to support the Iraqi government in protecting the vulnerable religious minorities. The ambassador addressed several Jewish and Christian religious leaders who have expressed concern about the international Christian community not engaging enough in helping their brethren. They have also expressed concern as to whether the Iraqi government was doing everything in its power to protect religious minorities. Among those present at Thursday's meeting were Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, President of the New York Board of Rabbis and Dr. Paul de Vries, president of the New York Divinity School, along with several others.
News organizations as well as external research companies, and even the U.S. government have been reporting a rise in persecution of religious minority in the country – the aftermath of chaos and a rise in sectarian violence that followed the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. more >>
The Christians of Iraq, along with other religious minorities, live in constant fear and face potential genocide, claims Gwendolen Cates, a Christian and documentarian who spent much of the last three years on the ground in Iraq.
Iraqi Christians want to stay in the country that is their ancestral home, Cates told The Christian Post. But in order to do so, they need the support of the international community. They are a segment of three religious minorities that face extinction and banishment, according to the filmmaker, together with Sabean Mandaean and Yazidi populations. These communities are native people of the land.
“It’s like the Native Americans,” Cates said. The Assyrian Christians are not Muslim converts; the ethnic group goes back to ancient Mesopotamia. The Assyrian nation was the first to convert to Christianity, sometime between 1 and 2 CE, according to the filmmaker. more >>
The last U.S. troops stationed in Iraq left the country on Sunday, marking an end to nine years of U.S. engagement and thousands of lives lost.
The exodus of the remaining 500 U.S. soldiers have left the country in a fragile state of democracy and many fear that with the U.S. military withdrawal, the country will plunge into civil war.
Although the security situation has significantly improved since the peak of insecurity in 2006 and 2007, insurgency attacks remain commonplace and sectarian tensions have yet to be effectively subdued. more >>
As the United States withdraws troops from Iraq after nine years of conflict, many fear the vulnerable Christian community in the country will be left unprotected.
Since the war began in March 2003, Iraq erupted into sectarian violence, leaving U.S. troops in charge of trying to contain what threatened to become a civil war. The situation turned out to be catastrophic for the Christian community, as violence against Christians soared, including a an attack on a church in Baghdad in Oct. 2010, in which over 50 congregants were killed.
Iraqi Christians are caught amidst political brawls between the majority Shiite Muslims, the Sunni Muslims and the Kurds (in the north) who are predominantly Muslim, experts say. Many chose to leave the country. more >>
Attacks against Christian Assyrian businesses in northern Iraq over the weekend, which local sources said were organized by a pro-Islamic political party, marked the first such destruction of Christian establishments in the Kurdish region.
The rampage threatens the frail security of Iraq’s dwindling Christian population, sources said.
After mullah Mala Ismail Osman Sindi’s sermon claiming there was moral corruption in massage parlors in the northern town of Zakho on Friday (Dec. 2), a group of young men attacked and burned shops in the town, most of them Christian-owned. The businesses included liquor stores, hotels, a beauty salon and a massage parlor, according to Ankawa News. more >>
The life of Iraqi Christians has not been easy. Since a siege directed against Christians in Baghdad in October 2010 killed 52 people, the situation of the followers of Christ in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation has grown worse.
About 500,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from an estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million in 2003, according to a report by Minority Rights Group International, a research body. Persecution makes the Christian community smaller each year, with churches as well as households being targeted and causing worshippers to flee.
The Christmas holiday season has rarely been a happy one for Christians in the Middle East, where they are often not allowed to raise church buildings and house churches often experience raids and harassment. Experts on the region say the Christmas season is a particularly dangerous period for the Christian minority, when numerous acts of violence and vandalism take place. more >>